International Criminal Law – A month in review – February 2018

6 March 2018

It has been reported this month that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has received 1.17 million submissions from victims in relation to the potential ICC war crimes investigation into Afghanistan.

In November 2017, the Prosecutor of the ICC requested authorisation from the ICC judges to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in relation to the armed conflict in Afghanistan since 2003. In order for the judges to make the decision, they can consider representations from the victims. Victims have been assisted by the ICC’s Victims Participation and Reparations Section which prepared a template form in a number of languages.

It is not known when the judges will reach a decision about commencing a war crimes investigation.

Kosovo: Specialist War Court Prosecutor to step down

Specialist Prosecutor David Schwendiman announced this month that he will “reluctantly” step down in March 2018, as a result of the US administration being “unable to overlook [his] status as a retiree called back into service”.

Schwendiman was the first Specialist Prosecutor appointed for the Specialist Chamber when it was set up in 2016. The Chamber was established following five years of negotiations. It is expected that senior officials in the current Kosovo government are among the suspects who will be indicted for atrocities against ethnic Serbs and opposition Kosovars during the 1998-9 conflict.

Liberia: Survivors of the 1990 church massacre sue alleged perpetrator in US court

In 1990, 600 people were massacred while taking refuge in a church which was serving as a Red Cross humanitarian shelter. Four survivors have filed a civil lawsuit in a US court against Moses Thomas, who was a Colonel in the Armed Forces of Liberia, and whom the survivors allege ordered approximately 45 soldiers to enter the church and open fire.

Under US law, foreign victims of war crimes abroad can sue perpetrators in the US courts but the lawsuit can only recover monetary damages if successful.

Despite Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommending Thomas for prosecution, no cases from the conflict have been tried in Liberia.

Libya: Commander wanted by ICC and Interpol hands himself in

It has been reported that Major Mahmoud al-Werfalli handed himself into military police this month but the Libyan National Army and a Libyan parliamentary committee have since announced that Libya will not hand over Major al-Werfalli due to an on-going domestic investigation.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Major al-Werfalli in August 2017 in relation to alleged summary executions of dozens of people in Libya, which has been supported by an Interpol Red Notice.

The situation in Libya is under investigation by the ICC despite the country not being a State Party to the Rome Statute. In 2011 the UN Security Council unanimously referred the situation to the ICC.

Philippines: ICC announces preliminary examination of President Duterte and the “war on drugs” campaign

The Prosecutor of the ICC announced the launch of a preliminary examination into allegations of crimes against humanity committed by Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte in his anti-drugs campaign.

Official statistics claim 4,000 people have been killed by the police since President Duterte became president, although other reports claim the number is much higher. The ICC stated that “While some of such killings have reportedly occurred in the context of clashes between or within gangs, it is alleged that many of the reported incidents involved extra-judicial killings in the course of police anti-drug operations”.

This is the first time the ICC will conduct a preliminary examination in a South-East Asian country.

South Sudan: UN investigators identify 43 war crimes suspects

In a report published this month, investigators from the UN Commission for Human Rights have named individuals whom they allege committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the violence which started in the country in 2013. The report is the culmination of hundreds of witness interviews and consideration of 58,000 documents.

As part of the 2015 peace deal, the African Union and South Sudan were to establish a hybrid court in order to try crimes arising from this conflict. In light of this report, there have been renewed calls for the hybrid court. The UN have previously accused the African Union of making itself complicit in the bloodshed by failing to set up the hybrid court with South Sudan.

UK: Court upholds Assange arrest warrant

Assange continues to risk arrest should he leave the Ecuadorian embassy after the Westminster Magistrates’ Court upheld Assange’s arrest warrant this month.

The arrest warrant was issued in 2012 as a result of Assange’s failure to surrender to the court.  He was required to surrender pursuant to the European Arrest Warrant issued by Sweden relating to sexual assault allegations. These allegations were dropped by Swedish prosecutors last year and the EAW withdrawn. Judge Emma Arbuthnot said Assange needed to face justice for failing to surrender to custody and therefore the warrant should remain.

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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