International Criminal Law – A month in review – August 2015

10 September 2015

A summary of the significant International Criminal Law developments in August from around the world.

Rwanda / UK: Extradition request ends for Rwandan spy chief

On 10 August, Westminster Magistrates’ Court dismissed the extradition request by Spain for Rwandan spy chief General Karake.  Senior District Judge Howard Riddle dismissed the arrest warrant on the basis that, in accordance with the findings of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the allegations were beyond the jurisdiction of the UK.  As is explained in more detail in our blog, under the principle of dual criminality, any request must be an offence in this country as well as in the requesting state.  In this case, it appears that the CPS was not satisfied that it would be possible to establish that the offence which General Karake was accused of would be an offence in this country.

Spain / Belgium / Sierra Leone: Spain arrest American-Belgian businessman for Sierra Leone ‘blood diamond’ case

On 28 August, 64-year-old businessman Michael Desaedeleer was detained by Spanish Police acting on a European Arrest Warrant request from Belgium.  It is alleged that during 1999 and 2001 Desaedeleer led extraction work in diamond mines in Sierra Leone which were then used by the former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, to fund weapons.  Taylor was found guilty at The Hague’s Special Court for Sierra Leone of aiding and abetting war crimes in Sierra Leone and was sentenced to 50 years’ imprisonment.  For more information, please see our blog.

Kenya / ICC: Judges to review decision not to refer Kenya for failing to cooperate

On 19 August, the Appeals Chamber at the ICC reversed the decision made by the Trial Chamber in relation to Kenya’s co-operation in the case against President Kenyatta.  The Trial Chamber had previously decided not to refer Kenya to the Assembly of State Parties for failing to cooperate with the ICC.  ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, had appealed that decision, stating “I have persistently sought to secure the cooperation that my Office required from the Government of Kenya in this case in order to execute my mandate… This crucial assistance was ultimately not provided”.  The Presiding Judge in the Appeal Chamber indicated that the Trial Chamber had made errors which had prevented them from making a conclusive determination as to Kenya’s failure to comply with a cooperation request.  More information about this decision here. 

Kosovo: Parliament sets up special war crimes court

On 3 August, the Kosovo government voted to set up a special war crimes court to investigate alleged war crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the 1990s.  The opposition, abstained from the controversial vote, which failed last time it went through Parliament.  The proposal for the court followed a 2010 Council of Europe report which accused KLA members of abductions, beatings, summary executions and, in some cases, the removal of human organs.  The tribunal will operate under national law but will probably hold its proceedings in the Netherlands.  Indictments can be issued once the court has been formally established.  As reported by the BBC.

Russia / Greenpeace: Russia broke international law by boarding Greenpeace protest ship in 2013

The Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in The Hague, ruled on 24 August that the Russian government had broken international law by boarding a Greenpeace Ship and detaining its crew in 2013.  The Dutch-flagged ship, the ‘Arctic Sunrise’, was peacefully protesting against Arctic oil drilling and is said to have taken place outside Russia’s territorial waters.  The ruling entitles the Netherlands to, amongst other things, compensation for material damage to the ship and resulting from the measures taken by Russia against the Arctic 30 activists, including the costs of bail paid and expenses incurred during their detention.  The activists had their case dismissed by Russian authorities following two months detention for piracy/hooliganism.  More on this story here, or the ruling here. 

Israel / ICC: Israeli “settler terrorism” file handed to ICC by Palestine

According to The Jerusalem Post, the Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister submitted an additional “settler terrorism” file to the ICC on 3 August.  This follows a war crimes file that was handed to ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in June 2015, calling for the ICC to launch an investigation into Israel for alleged breaches of international law.  Palestine ratified the Rome Statute and became an official member state of the ICC in December 2014.  Their submissions this summer are the first opportunity they have had to describe their complaints against Israel to the ICC prosecutors. 

Bangladesh: Domestic war crimes tribunal sentences former commander to death

Commander Sheikh Sirajul Haque was sentenced to the death penalty on 11 August for his involvement in the Razakar, the Pakistan Army’s paramilitary force during Bangladesh’s liberation war.  This case was heard in the domestic war crimes tribunal.  The sentence follows a decision  upholding the death sentence by the Supreme Court in June for influential Islamist leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid.  According to Times of India, since Bangladesh set up the tribunal, it has sentenced over 15 people to death. 

Democratic Republic of Congo / ICC: Warlord Lubanga requests early release

Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga was convicted by the ICC in 2012 of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years and using them to participate in hostilities.  He was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment, however he has been in custody since his arrest in 2005, and has therefore already served a significant part of his sentence.  The ICC must review sentences when a prisoner has served two-thirds of their sentence – which applies to Lubanga as of this year.  On 21 August he requested early release from prison to study the causes of the ethnic conflict.  The BBC reported that the prosecution objected to the request saying he had interfered with witnesses in another case, which he denies.  The judges are yet to issue their decision.  Lubanga was the first person to be arrested and convicted under a warrant issued by the ICC and an early release will set precedent for future ICC detainees.

Yemen / Amnesty International: Report states both sides committed war crimes

Amnesty International has published a report, entitled ‘Nowhere Safe for Civilians – Airstrikes and Ground Attacks in Yemen’ which states that all sides in the conflict in Yemen have “have displayed a flagrant disregard for civilian lives and fundamental principles of international humanitarian law.  They have killed and injured hundreds of civilians not involved in the conflict, many of them children and women, in unlawful (disproportionate and indiscriminate) ground and air attacks.” Amnesty International stated that the indiscriminate attacks constitute war crimes and have called on the UN Human Rights Council to create an international commission of inquiry to investigate alleged serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.  Find the report here.

Co-authored by Emily Elliott.

You can find out more about the Criminal Law team's work relating to International Criminal Law here.       

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