International Criminal Law – A month in review – March 2017

28 April 2017


On 13 March 2017, the Colombian Senate approved a constitutional reform to create a special war crimes courts. The transitional justice system will consist of a truth commission, an investigatory unit to find missing people, and a temporary court to try war crimes committed before 1 December 2016. Click here for news on this story.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Seven Congolese Army officers were charged on 18 March 2017 with war crimes after a video was released showing soldiers opening fire on civilians, resulting in at least 13 people dead. Click here for news on this story.


On 2 March 2017, French cement company LafargeHolcim admitted that it had indirectly funded Isis in Syria in order to continue its operations. See here for our blog on this story.


On 2 March 2017, two Syrian nationals were arrested for war crimes over the murder of 36 civil servants in 2013. Both are alleged to have been members of al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria at the time. Click here for news on this story.

On 2 March 2017, a group of torture survivors, Syrian lawyers and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), filed a criminal complaint in Germany against six Syrian secret service officials for the alleged torture of prisoners in Damascus amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Federal Prosecution Office in Germany stated that it may provide further evidence to support its own on-going investigation into Syrian war crimes.

Ivory Coast

On 28 March 2017, former first lady Simone Gbagbo, was acquitted by of crimes against humanity and war crimes by a national court, in relation to the 2011 civil war in which around 3,000 people were killed after Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power to the current President. Mr Gbagbo is standing trial at the ICC in relation to the conflict. Mrs Gbagbo has already been convicted and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment in the Ivory Coast of offences against the state. Click here for news on this story.


On 22 March, a UN envoy expressed his concern over the reports of serious violations of international humanitarian law perpetrated in Libya. He issued a reminder that those responsible were criminally liable, including before the ICC. This came in response to images share on social media of the Libyan National Army allegedly executing captives. Click here for news on this story.


On 20 March 2017, the ICTY began to hear the appeal by Jadranko Prlic, Prime Minister of the self-declared Bosnian Croat Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia and five former military officials. They were convicted in May 2013 of offences of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1992 and 1995 in Bosnia Herzegovina, namely persecuting, expelling and murdering Bosnian Muslims. Click here for news on this story.

On 22 March 2017, judges at the ICC added a further year to the 18 year sentence of former Congolese Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba. He had already been convicted of war crimes committed between 2002 and 2003, and this addition was as a result of an additional conviction for attempting to bribe witnesses during the war crimes trial. Click here for news on this story.

On 24 March 2016, the ICC awarded symbolic reparations of $250 each to nearly 300 people who suffered harm as a result of an attack on the Congolese village of Bogoro in 2003. The court estimated that the total physical, material and psychological harm was found to have been valued at more than $3.7 million, of which Germaine Katanga was responsible for £1 million, however it was decided that it was unlikely he would be able to pay this. The judges also awarded collective reparations for victims. Click here for news on this story.

North Korea

On 31 March the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights announced that an archive will be set up in Geneva to maintain records and evidence of human rights abuses in North Korea. The aim is to preserve evidence confidentially in the event that it becomes possible in future to hold the Kim Jong-un regime responsible for any violations before an international court.

South Africa

On 7 March 2017, South Africa officially revoked its withdrawal from the ICC. South African officials have been asked to appear before the ICC on 7 April 2017 over their failure to arrest Sudanese resident Oman Hassan al-Bashir two years ago. For news on this story click here and here.


On 28 March 2017 Judge Eloy Velasco accepted jurisdiction over a criminal complaint made on behalf of a Spanish-Syrian national against nine members of the Assad regime for the forced disappearance, torture and execution of her brother whilst in prison in Syria. The judge ordered that an investigation be opened. Click here for news on this story.

Sri Lanka

On 3 March 2017, the UN HCHR published a report on Sri Lanka’s progress in addressing alleged war crimes committed during the country’s civil war that ended in 2009. While it recognised constitutional reforms and policy developments, it continued to push for a hybrid court system to try crimes and criticised the lack of progress. Click here for news on this story.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena responded by saying that he would not allow the involvement of international judges and stated his resistance to prosecuting the armed forces. Click here for news on this story.


On 1 March 2017, the UN Special Inquiry for Syria published a report on the re-capture of Aleppo by Syrian government forces. It reported that the forced evacuation of parts of the city alongside reprisals and executions amounted to war crimes, and criticised the shelling of hospitals without legitimate military targets in or around these facilities, as well as lack of warning prior to attacks, and the use of chlorine bombs. Rebel groups were also accused of continuous shelling of western Aleppo using unguided and imprecise weaponry, without identifying clear military targets to intentionally terrorise the civilian population, thereby also amounting to war crimes. Click here for news on this story.

United Kingdom

On 15 March, the sentence of Sgt. Alexander Blackman (Marine A) was reduced from murder to manslaughter on the ground of diminished responsibility on the basis of new evidence of his mental state at the time of the crime. Sgt. Blackman shot and killed an injured insurgent at close range while deployed in Afghanistan in September 2011. Click here for news on this story.

United States of America

On 23 March 2017, the Center for Justice and Accountability filed a lawsuit in the District Court of Massachusetts against former Haitian Mayor, Jean Morose Viliena alleging that he committed crimes against humanity between 2007 and 2009. The former Mayor is currently living near to Boston. The case is brought under the Torture Victim Protection Act 1991. Click here for news on this story.

On 24 March 2017, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the destruction of cultural heritage sites and that these could amount to war crimes. Click here for news on this story.

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

For other recent monthly reviews, please see here:  

International Criminal Law – A month in review – January 2017

International Criminal Law – A month in review – February 2017

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