International Criminal Law – A month in review – January 2017

21 February 2017

Belgium

On 23 January 2017, Tzipi Livni, Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs between 2006 and 2009, cancelled her visit to Belgium shortly after the Belgian prosecutor’s office stated that it wanted to question her to advance their investigations. Mrs Livni is named in a complaint against several Israeli officials in connection to alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during Operation Cast Lead. Belgian law specifies jurisdiction over international crimes where a victim has Belgian citizenship. For news on this story click here.

Chad

On 9 January 2017 the legal team of former Chadian President Hissene Habré launched their appeal. He was convicted in May 2016 for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Extraordinary African Chambers.  He was sentenced to life in jail and to pay up to 30,000 euros compensation to each victim. For news on this story click here.

Congo

On 4 January 2017, the ICC rejected Congolese rebel leader  Bosco Ntaganda’s challenge to the Court’s jurisdiction. The Court found that it did have jurisdiction over crimes committed by one side against the same side, thereby confirming its jurisdiction over cases of rape and sexual slavery. For analysis of this decision click here.

France

On 5 January 2017, former Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, was arrested in France based on a Serbian extradition request for alleged war crimes. He has faced war crimes charges twice, but been acquitted on both occasions. On 12 January he was released on bail and ordered to remain in France while extradition proceedings continue. For news on this story click here and here.

Germany

On 3 January 2017, German prosecutors announced that they were charging Harry Sarfo, a German citizen of Ghanaian descent, with murder and war crimes he allegedly committed while volunteering with Islamic State. He had previously spoken out publically against Islamic state, and stated that he had refused to partake in any killings. However, this was contradicted by a video leaked to the Washington Post by someone with ties to IS. Sarfo is currently serving a three year sentence for belonging to a terrorist organisation. To read news on this story click here.

ICC Withdrawals

The leaders of African Union member states are reported to have endorsed a strategy of collective withdrawal from the ICC, at the close of the Summit on 31 January 2017. It is unclear what the terms are since no official strategy has been published. A draft document seen by Reuters prior to the summit proposed increased regionalisation of international law. For more on this story, see Jonathan Grimes' blog  here.

On 16 November 2016 Vladimir Putin reported that it had signed an order to have Russia withdraw from the Rome Statute, which establishes the International Criminal Court. However, Russia has never ratified the agreement. Prior to his announcement there had been calls for the Russian military to be referred to the ICC for their involvement in air strikes by President Assad in Syria, and the annexation of Crimea. For analysis on this story see here.

Interpol

Interpol announced on 20 January that it had set up a new project to identify and dismantle organised crime networks across Africa and Asia linked to the illegal wildlife trade and environmental crimes. For news on this story click here.

Kosovo

The setting up of a specialist tribunal to try crimes alleged to have been committed by the KLA in the conflict in the late 1990s moved one step closer when the  Dutch Parliament ratified an agreement on the Kosovo Specialist Chambers.  Ekaterina Trendafilova was appointed on 14 December as President of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and a further 19 judges were approved on 7 February. Click here for news on this story.

Sri Lanka

On 5 January 2017, a Panel recommended by the Sri Lankan government recommended a hybrid court made up of local and international judges be appointed to a court set up to investigate war crimes from the Sri Lankan civil war that ended in 2009. It recommended at least one international judge per bench and that international participation be phased out as domestic capacity developed. For news on this story click here.

Syria

According to the BBC, the UK government has confirmed that western forces are using satellite and unmanned aircraft to gather evidence of possible war crimes in Syria.

On 22 December the UN General Assembly voted to establish an independent panel to assist in the investigation and prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria. For more on this story click here and for details on its mandate and structure click here.

On 13 January the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, stated that increased cooperation and action was required by member states to prevent the destruction, trafficking and sale of cultural property. On 20 January she added that destruction by IS of two historical sites in Palmyra were war crimes amounting to cultural cleansing. For news on this story click here and here.

Switzerland

On 18 January 2017, the Swiss Attorney General’s Office announced that it had no grounds to charge Khaled Nezzar, Algeria’s former defence minister, with war crimes on the basis that the fighting between 1992 and 1994 did not have the required intensity to qualify as a conflict. Switzerland adopted legislation in 2011 that allowed it to try people suspected of war crimes anywhere in the world. Nezzar was arrested in 2011 and released on bail subject to his cooperation with Swiss authorities. TRIAL International, who filed the original complaint, are appealing to the Swiss Federal Court. For news on this story click here.

United Kingdom

Lawyer Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers, known for bringing numerous cases against the Ministry of Defence for alleged abuses in Iraq, was struck off in after disciplinary proceedings in January 2017. Shiner admitted that he had paid a fixer to find clients. Click here for news on this story.

Yemen

On 27 January 2017 a UN expert panel presented its report to the Security on its investigation into ten airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen between March and October 2010. It found that in eight cases there was “no evidence that the airstrikes had targeted legitimate military objectives” and in all ten it considered that “the coalition did not meet international humanitarian law requirements of proportionality and precautions”. It concluded that “the panel considers that some of the attacks may amount to war crimes.” For news on this story click here.

 

Co-authored by Sophia Kerridge, Paralegal in the Criminal Litigation team.

For further information, about the Criminal Law team's work relating to International Criminal Law here.

 

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