International Criminal Law – A Month in Review – March 2018

5 April 2018

Congo: ICC upholds $1 million in damages to victims

On 8 March 2018, ICC judges upheld an order that $1 million should be paid as reparations to the victims of the attack on the village of Bogoro in 2003.

The original order for reparations was the first of its kind, and awarded a symbolic $250 to each of the victims in addition to collective compensation for the village to spend on counselling, housing and education. The Congolese militia leader Katanga sought to appeal the order on the basis that it was excessive and did not reflect his role in the event.

Presiding Judge Howard Morrison said the purpose of reparations “is to repair the harm that was inflicted on the victims” and where possible to try restore things to where they were before.

Katanga is now serving a 12-year sentence handed down by the ICC in 2014 on five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for the attack. 

England: Germany investigates Nazi war crimes

German prosecutors confirmed that they were investigating Stanislaw Chrzanowski, a 96 year old from Shropshire, for his alleged role in the Holocaust in World War Two. Chrzanowski died before realising he was being investigated.

This investigation marks the first time that Germany has investigated someone from the UK for WW2 offences. The BBC reported that “German prosecutors confirmed they were now looking through immigration records for possible new suspects in the UK.

Liberia: UN re-emphasises need for reconciliation from 1989-2003 conflict

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed has re-emphasised the need for Liberia to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations from almost a decade ago. The TRC’s final report recommended various actions to national authorities to ensure responsibility and reparations, including a compensation scheme and a dedicated war crimes court to prosecute various individuals for offences including crimes against humanity. None of the TRC recommendations have been implemented.

The TRC was set up by the former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf following the conflict in Liberia between 1989 and 2003. An estimated 250,000 people died in the conflict.

ICTY: Mladic appeals life sentence

On 22 March 2018, former Bosnian military leader Ratko Mladić appealed his conviction, challenging his life sentence and stating that the errors of law should invalidate the judgment and the errors of fact caused a miscarriage of justice.

The defence submitted that Mladić’s rights to due process were violated on various grounds. They stated that “the volume and magnitude of errors in the Judgment is unprecedented. This is typified by the most basic mistakes being littered throughout the Judgement.” Amongst other matters, they raised concerns that the trial court had relied upon discredited witnesses, that victims were not differentiated by their role as civilians or military and that the trial chamber admitted into evidence incidents which were non-identifiable. Broadly, the defence alleged bias against Mladić which resulted in the evidence not being objectively reviewed.

The defence noted that Mladić has not yet been provided with a copy of the judgment in a language he understands so they reserve the right to raise further grounds for appeal in due course.

On the same day, the prosecution also appealed parts of the judgment on the basis that the trial chamber erred in not finding the elements of the offence, including the crime of genocide pursuant to count 1 on his indictment.

It has not been yet been announced when any decision on appeal will be made.

Syria: Investigators collated evidence for prosecutions

Reuters have reported that a quasi-prosecutorial body of the UN, which is investigating serious crimes in Syria, has released its first report “confirming that war crimes investigators and activists have amassed an overwhelming volume of testimony, images and videos documenting atrocities committed by all sides during Syria’s war”.

The investigation is being led by former French judge Catherine Marchi-Uhel, who was appointed by the UN last summer. The team are said to have prepared case files for various European authorities, with the intention of using the evidence in countries where courts can exercise universal jurisdiction.

Alternatively, the evidence can be retained for any future prosecution by the ICC or a new court focusing on the conflict in Syria.

Philippines: President announces withdrawal from ICC

As mentioned in our February monthly review, the Prosecutor of the ICC announced a preliminary examination into allegations of crimes against humanity committed by Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte.

Following this announcement, President Duterte has announced his plans to withdraw his country from the Rome Statute (which set up the ICC and provides the ICC with the jurisdiction to investigate signatory countries) and has notified the UN Secretary General of this intention. He states the investigation is political and contained “baseless” allegations.

Mali: Malian authorities hand over alleged war criminal to the ICC

Over the Easter weekend, Malian authorities handed over Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud, a Malian man who is wanted for war crimes to the ICC.  He has been taken into custody.

It is alleged that Al Hassan was head of the Islamic police in Tumbuktu during 2012/13, when Timbuktu was under the control of jihadist militants. According to the arrest warrant, also issued in March 2018, Al Hassan is alleged “to have taken part in the destruction of the mausoleums […] in Timbuktu […] and to have participated in the policy of forced marriages which victimized the female inhabitants of Timbuktu and led to repeated rapes and the sexual enslavement of women and girls.

His arrest follows the ICC conviction of Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi in 2016, who pleaded guilty to destroying cultural sites in Timbuktu, which was the first case of cultural desecration tried by the ICC.

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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