International Criminal Law Quarterly Round-Up: Q2 2022

8 July 2022

This quarterly International Criminal Law update provides a summary of the news stories in the period April – June 2022.  You can find our update from January – March 2022 here.

The relevance of international criminal law continues to be highlighted by the war in Ukraine. As events have unfolded, we have covered relevant developments below along with a number of other international law news stories.

APRIL

Former UN prosecutor calls for international arrest warrant for Putin

Swiss news outlets reported that Carla Del Ponte, former UN Chief Prosecutor, called for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Del Ponte oversaw the UN’s prosecution of war crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia from 1999 to 2007.

Del Ponte stated that Putin was a “war criminal” and that clear war crimes were being committed in Ukraine. Following the current ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan’s visit to Ukraine in March, Del Ponte urged that investigations must continue and that if the ICC finds proof of war crimes, the court must find out who was responsible for making decisions, believing that it is possible to hold Putin to account. Del Ponte stated that the attacks on civilians and bombardment of civilian buildings amount to war crimes.

While Ukraine has requested an international probe, neither Russia or Ukraine are party to the ICC.  As discussed in our previous blog, Ukraine has accepted the court’s jurisdiction.

See reports here, here, and here.

 

Darfur war crimes trial opens at the ICC

On 5 April 2022, the trial in the case of former Janjaweed commander, Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman (known as "Ali Kushayb"), opened before the ICC.  This comes fifteen years after an arrest warrant was issued against him. Abd-Al-Rahman is accused of 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, rape, and torture, committed in Darfur, Sudan, between August 2003 and at least April 2004.

During this time period, Abd-Al-Rahman was a commander of a brigade of the Janjaweed militia group who, alongside the Sudanese government forces, allegedly carried out a military campaign and a systematic campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against rebels and their communities in Darfur that the UN estimates left 300,000 dead and 2.5 million displaced.

Abd-Al-Rahman’s trial is considered ground-breaking as it is the first time an alleged perpetrator of crimes in Darfur faces justice. Four others also face ICC charges, including former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, but remain fugitives of the court. Although a UN resolution requires that the Sudanese government cooperates with the ICC, current political turmoil and instability in Sudan will make this difficult to achieve.

See reports here and here.

 

Dutch court sentence Afghan man to 12 years for war crimes

On 14 April 2022, Abdul Razaq Arif was found guilty of war crimes committed in Kabul, Afghanistan by The Hague District Court in the Netherlands.  He was tried using the principle of universal jurisdiction.

Arif worked as top commander in the infamous Pul-e-Charkhi prison in Kabul between 1983 and 1990.  It was alleged that, during this period, Arif subjected political prisoners to inhumane and degrading treatment, including torture and executions.  Arif argued that this was a case of mistaken identity but, after witnesses and victims identified him, he was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

See reports here and here.

 

First Trial in Germany on Crimes in Gambia Opens

On 25 April 2022, another universal jurisdiction case began. Bai Lowe is accused of crimes against humanity, murder and attempted murder.

It is reportedly the first prosecution of human rights violations committed in Gambia under former President Jammeh. During Jammeh’s 22 years as President, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and arbitrary detentions were ordered and enforced by Jammeh’s so called “death squad”.  Bai Lowe is alleged to have been part of a “death squad”.

Victims of the crimes perpetrated by Jammeh and his death squad have been fighting for accountability and hope that this trial will be the first of many to bring the perpetrators to justice. Jammeh is currently living in exile in Equatorial Guinea.

This case in particular shows that Germany is becoming a leader in Europe with respect to applying universal jurisdiction principles to empower national courts to combat impunity for international crimes.

See reports here and here.

 

Met’s War Crimes Unit receives evidence of 50 ‘horrendous’ atrocities by Putin’s troops in Ukraine

The Metropolitan Police in London are investigating approximately 50 reports of war crimes in Ukraine. The Met’s War Crimes Team, which forms part of the Counter Terrorism Command, has been gathering evidence with respect to alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine. The Met Police continue to gather evidence and testimonies in support of the ongoing International Criminal Court investigation.

The referrals that have been sent directly to the team are being reviewed and assessed by specialist officers and detectives. While the evidence being reviewed includes incidents dating back to November 2013, the majority of the allegations pertain to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

From 24 February to 22 April 2022, the UN has verified that there have been close to 2,500 civilian deaths and almost 3,000 more injuries.

See reports here and here.

 

Switzerland investigates war crime of pillaging

Swiss prosecutors have formally opened criminal proceedings against “unknown persons” for the war crime of pillaging.  The Attorney General initially received a complaint from an NGO, which related to a Libyan diesel smuggling scheme.  It is understood that the Office of the Attorney General received a separate report about the same matter from the country’s Money Laundering Reporting Office.

See here.

 

MAY

Trial of Hamid Nouri concludes in Stockholm

A universal jurisdiction trial in Sweden concludes, with the verdict expended in July 2022.

Hamid Nouri, a former prison official and prosecutor in Iran, was arrested at Stockholm airport in November 2019 after exiled members of the Iranian opposition spotted him. Nouri has been on trial since August 2021 facing allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes. He is said to have killed thousands of prisoners in Iran on the orders of then Iranian spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini.  The killings were said to been carried out between 1980-1988 at the end of the Iran-Iraq war.

Since his arrest, the Iranian foreign ministry has continually disputed the charges and trial against Nouri, calling them “illegal”, “baseless”, and a “political show”.

If convicted of the charges of war crimes and murder, Nouri faces a possible sentence of life in prison.

See reports here, here, and here.

 

Amnesty International reports that Russian troops have committed war crimes

Following a 12 day investigation in Russian occupied regions near Kyiv, Amnesty International has published a report concluding that there is evidence that war crimes have been committed by Russian soldiers. The 44-page report documents unlawful air strikes targeting residential buildings and extrajudicial killings by Russian forces in Bucha, Borodyanka, and other towns and villages northwest of Kyiv. Amnesty researchers interviewed witnesses of the killings and airstrikes, many of them family members of the deceased, and reviewed documents left behind by Russian troops.

Amnesty’s Secretary General, Agnès Callamard, who was with the delegation in Ukraine, stated, “We support their demands for justice, and call on the Ukrainian authorities, the International Criminal Court and others to ensure evidence is preserved that could support future war crime prosecutions… It is vital that all those responsible, including up the chain of command, are brought to justice.”

See the report here.

 

Rwandan official, Laurent Bucyibaruta, on trial for genocide in France

Laurent Bucyibaruta, a former senior official in the Rwandan government, is on trial in Paris for his role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, where an estimated 800,000 people were killed over the course of 100 days. Bucyibaruta is the most senior figure to be tried by France in relation to the Rwandan genocide so far.

Bucyibaruta is accused to have either orchestrated or participated in a plan that resulted in tens of thousands of Tutsis massacred on 21 April 1994, as well as the killing of 90 Tutsi students, Tutsi prisoners in Gikongoro Prison and three priests. If convicted, Bucyibaruta faces a life sentence.

See the report here.

 

Ukraine commences first war crimes trial

Ukraine started the first war crimes trial in Kyiv in relation to the Russian. 21-year-old Vadim Shysimarin, a tank commander in the Russian army, faced trial over the alleged murder of a 68-year-old civilian in the village of Chupakhivka in Ukraine. Shysimarin subsequently pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Further war crimes trials have taken place since. The office of the prosecutor general of Ukraine, led by Iryna Venediktova, has registered more than 10,000 war crimes since the start of the war.

See reports here, here, and here.

French court upholds charge against company Lafarge for complicity in crimes against humanity in Syria

Following five years of litigation, the Paris Court of Appeal has upheld the decision made by the French Supreme Court in September 2021: Lafarge, a multinational cement company, can be charged with complicity in crimes against humanity.

The case revolves around a Lafarge cement plant in Syria, which was kept open for more than three years after the outbreak of war in 2011, and the alleged transfer of €13 million to armed groups including ISIS. Lafarge is the first company to be tried in France for complicity in crimes against humanity.

Like the case against Lundin Energy in Sweden, the trial of Lafarge is a landmark case holding multinational corporations accountable for their role in financing international crimes and continuing to operate in war zones.

See reports here and here.

 

JUNE

Law Commission recommends failure to prevent human rights

The Law Commission in England and Wales published proposals for comprehensive reform of the laws on corporate criminal liability, in response to concerns about holding companies to account.  One of the proposals was to introduce a new offence of failure to prevent human rights abuses.  Although this is at an early stage, the recommendations are welcomed.

See here.

 

Lawyers compile evidence of state failure to prevent genocide

The Yazidi Justice Committee (a group of high-level British lawyers, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC) announced in June that they had been working for two and a half years, investigating the genocide committed against Yazidis in northern Iraq by Islamic State.  The YJC has been compiling evidence to show that one or more countries failed in their international obligations to prevent genocide.

The YJC is expected to complete the work soon and is intending to name several countries in a report.

See here.

 

Russian spy attempts to infiltrate ICC

The Netherlands' General Intelligence and Security Service announced that it had prevented a Russian spy from infiltrating the ICC. The alleged spy, identified as 36-year-old Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov, had spent years creating a false Brazilian identity and was intending to start an internship at the ICC.  He is reportedly connected to Russia’s GRU agency – a military intelligence service.  This would have allowed him to have access to the ICC’s building and systems, where he may have been able to gather intelligence.  This is of particular importance as the ICC opened a probe into war crimes in Ukraine shortly after Russia's invasion began in February.

The ICC is also conducting an investigation into Russia's attack on Georgia in 2008 and judges at the ICC have recently issued arrest warrants for three suspects, including two Russian nationals, in relation to the conflict with Georgia in 2008 and the mistreatment of civilians in the South Ossetia region.

See here and here.

 

Further Information

For further information on issues raised within this blog, please contact a member of our criminal team.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

Emily Elliott is an Associate in the Criminal Litigation department, specialising in all areas of financial and business crime, internal investigations, international crime and general crime.

Sameera Abdulrehman is a trainee solicitor in Kingsley Napley’s Criminal litigation team. Sameera is currently in her second seat with the Criminal litigation team, having completed her first seat in the Immigration team, where she assisted with preparing applications for a wide range of UK immigration matters.

 

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