Tag Archives: international justice

#R2PWeekly: 27 June – 1 July 2016


EU’s New Global Strategy Highlights RtoP and Support for Limiting Use of the Veto in Situations of Atrocity Crimes

This week, Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, presented the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy. She outlines five main priorities for the Union, namely 1) security; 2) state and societal resilience to the EU’s East and South; 3) an integrated approach to conflicts and crises; 4) cooperative regional orders; and 5) global governance for the 21st century.Description: https://gallery.mailchimp.com/8758bcde31bc78a5c32ceee50/images/79b62621-5c88-4ede-86d4-c8b56ebf00c8.png

Of particular interest are two declarations included under priority 5, in which the EU promises to “promote the responsibility to protect, international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and international criminal law” and to encourage wide acceptance of the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction. Additionally, the strategy asserts that it will continue to call upon members of the UN Security Council to not vote against “credible draft resolutions on timely and decisive action to prevent or end mass atrocities.”

The EU has recently taken a number of steps in support of the RtoP norm and initiatives to limit the use of the veto in situations of atrocity crimes, of which the Global Strategy is the latest. Last year, the EU appointed a Focal Point on RtoP, while all 28 current members of the EU support the “Code of Conduct regarding Security Council action on genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes”, with 25 also supporting the French/Mexican political declaration on the use of the veto.
To see which countries support these initiatives, check out our map here.


Catch up on developments in…

Central African Republic
Gaza/West Bank
South Sudan



As part of her visit to Myanmar, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, met with Muslim community leaders in Sittwe, the capital of the Arakan state, on 23 June. Yanghee Lee inquired about the community leaders’ views on the government’s ban of the term “Rohingya,” as well as the government’s recent citizenship verification drive.

Over 200 villagers in central Myanmar destroyed a local mosque following an argument between Muslim and Buddhist neighbors on the construction of a new Muslim school on 23 June. The attack forced 70 people to take refuge in a small local police station.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on 29 June on the criminalization of peaceful expression in Burma titled “They Can Arrest You at Any Time.”


On Wednesday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid al Hussein, issued areport on the “tragic and comprehensive deterioration of human rights of the people in Burundi.” Since President Nkurunziza’s re-election in April 2015, 348 people have died in extrajudicial killings, according to the report. Perpetrators of the killings and arrests includedsecurity and intelligence forces as well as members of the armed group Imbonerakure.

Central African Republic:

On 24 June, a UN peacekeeper from Senegal was shot dead in Bangui in an attackcondemned by the UN Secretary-General. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch reported that 18 peacekeepers serving in MINUSCA were killed by a Central African Republic police unit between April 2015 and March 2016. The head of the police unit has been removed, but human rights groups are calling for his prosecution related to 13 of the 18 cases.

Democratic Republic of Congo:

DRC authorities have arrested 74 militiamen and their alleged leader, Frederic Batumike, a provincial deputy, on charges of murder and the repeated rapes of around 30 young girls in the South Kivu province.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Celestin Kanyama, the police chief in Kinshasa, accusing him and the police force under his command of creating a “climate of fear” ahead of the country’s upcoming presidential elections in December. The US has accused the police force under Kanyama’s control of having used violence to quell protests against current Congolese President Kabila, which resulted in the deaths of at least 40 people. Furthermore, at least 50 men and boys died and 30 others disappeared after the police raided the homes of suspected opposition members in Kinshasa without a warrant.

The UN Security Council has urged President Kabila to stay in line with constitutional requirements to hold elections by the end of this year as the Council expressed concerns over the arrests of members of the opposition weeks earlier. The government has said that it is unlikely that the DRC will be able to hold these elections within the allotted timeframe due to logistical reasons, but the opposition has claimed that this is a way for President Kabila to try to remain in office past his constitutional limit. The European Union Parliament also votedon a resolution which calls for an end to the violence and human rights violations in the DRC, which has escalated in the run-up to the elections.

Gaza/West Bank:

Israeli forces shot and killed a female Palestinian after she ran her car into another car outside an Israeli settlement, injuring two people.

Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinian fisherman on 27 June off the coast of Gaza. The shots fired prevented fishermen from fishing farther than the designated range of five nautical miles. No injuries were reported, but the fishing boats were damaged, forcing the fishermen to retreat.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized the Israeli blockade of Gaza following a one-day trip to Palestine and Israel on 27 June. He called the “suffocating” blockade “collective punishment for which there must be accountability.” Ban Ki-Moon stressed a two-state solution “remains the only viable option to prevent perpetual conflict and to achieve the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.”

A Palestinian teenager stabbed a 13-year-old Israeli girl in her sleep in a West Bank settlement on Thursday. Israeli forces later shot and killed the Palestinian.


The Head of High Committee of Recognizing Shingal Genocide warned of the need to undertake measures to protect the mass graves of the Yezidi massacred by ISIL. So far, thirty mass graves have been identified, with an estimate that it might take three years to properly identify everyone in the graves.

On Sunday, Iraqi forces successfully captured the last district of Fallujah still held by ISIL, after having declared victory in the offensive to retake the city on 17 June. The following day, Iraqi forces launched a new offensive to clear the farmland to the west of Fallujah of ISIL fighters who have been hiding there since they fled the city.

Iraqi forces continued to successfully press an offensive against ISIL, started two weeks ago, to the south of Mosul, capturing the village of Telol al-Baj. Iraqi troops are now 45 km from the strategic airbase at Qayara, currently held by ISIL, which is expected to be the base of operations for the government offensive on Mosul. The Iraqi Defense Minister, Halit el-Ubeydi, put the estimate at the number of ISIL fighters killed in a recent Iraqi government offensive to the south of Mosul at 1,300.

A suicide bombing in a mosque in Abu Ghraib killed 12 people and wounded at least 32 on Tuesday. Meanwhile, a bomb attack in western Baghdad killed one and injured several others. On the eastern side of Baghdad, unidentified gunmen stormed into a house killing three women and a 6 year old girl.

On Thursday, the British government announced it will send a further 250 troops to Iraq in order to help the Iraqi government fight ISIL. They are expected to be teaching basic infantry skills, first aid, and how to dismantle homemade bombs as well as helping the Iraqis to build military infrastructure.


According to at least 10 local and international human rights organizations, evidence hasshown that Kenyan police are responsible for the disappearances of a human rights lawyer, Willy Kimani, and two other men, Kimani’s client, Josphat Mwenda, and a taxi driver. The evidence suggests that they were abducted last week as they were leaving a court where Mwenda was facing drug-related charges.


A car bomb outside a Benghazi area hospital killed four and injured 14 on 24 June. The World Health Organization (WHO) condemned the attacks, which had damaged already crippling infrastructure, estimating that “nearly 60% of public hospitals in conflict areas in Libya have shut down or are inaccessible.”


Infighting over land between residents of the Mopti region killed at least 14 people on Saturday, according to Malian police.

On Wednesday, the UN Security Council passed a resolution which will increase the number of peacekeeping troops in the UN’s mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in the aim of countering the recent increase in Islamic extremist attacks on both peacekeeping forces and civilians. The increase in troops and a decrease in extremist attacks will also provide a more stable and conducive environment for the implementation of the peace agreement between the government and other signatory groups. The resolution also extends the mandate of MINUSMA for another year, lasting until 30 June 2017.


The Niger Delta Avengers have called for a referendum on dividing up the Nigerian federation. The group also included a map via social media, with a suggestion on how the country could be divided into five separate countries. Experts had already predicted that the oil militant group could be encouraged by the surprising results of the recent British referendum to leave the European Union.

The Nigerian military has rescued over 5,000 people held hostage by Boko Haram after the army completed an operation to clear four remote villages in Borno state. The operation reportedly killed one civilian and at least six Boko Haram militants.

The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has released $13 million to provide life-saving assistance to 250,000 people in northeastern Nigeria who have recently become accessible.

Two suicide bombers in Abuja reportedly exploded their devices prematurely, killing themselves and not harming anyone else. City residents suspect that Boko Haram is behind the blasts, which occurred around midnight on Sunday, as people gathered for special Ramadan prayers. However, this has not yet been verified.

South Sudan:

On 25 June, clashes between the South Sudanese government and rebels in Wau uprooted thousands and left 50 dead. The South Sudanese government has stated that the gunmen are part of the militia of Ali Tamin Fatan, a militia leader trying to seize control of territory on the South Sudanese border with the Central African Republic. This new rebel group is said tohave a radical Islamist position.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir refused to sign resolutions to establish designated cantonment areas for the forces of his first deputy, Riek Machar. The decision comes in spite of a consensus being reached on the matter three weeks ago and is being heavily criticized for fear of destabilizing the peace process. The President also refused to agree to terms to establish a committee to review how many states South Sudan should be comprised of, a further point of contention between the President and the opposition.

Sri Lanka:

Journalist and human rights defender Nirmanusan Balasundaram released an opinion piece this week detailing the ways in which the Sri Lankan government has been backsliding in the post-war reconciliation, accountability, and human rights commitments it made in the October 2015 UN Human Rights Council resolution, which Sri Lanka co-sponsored with the United States.

On Wednesday, UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein spoke to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva about the current reconciliation process in Sri Lanka, statingthat the government must speed up the judicial process assessing war crimes allegations from the country’s civil war, accelerate the processing of those detained during and after the conflict, and help those still displaced to return to their homes. The Commissioner also acknowledged that the government has made some progress, but stressed that Sri Lanka must come through on its promise to involve foreign judges and other international experts in the judicial process.


The Sudanese government announced that it had withdrawn all of its armed forces from its shared border with South Sudan for the first time since South Sudan’s independence in 2011. On 4 June, the two nations had agreed to pull their troops from the area in order to begin construction on a road which would eventually lead to the creation of a firmly established and permanent demilitarized area between the two nations in hopes of ending mutual accusations of supporting rebels in either country.

On 24 June, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had to postpone ascheduled prisoner transfer from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) to the Sudanese government. Despite having been invited by the Sudanese government to act as the intermediary, the ICRC was denied permission to fly the prisoners out at the last moment.

The Governor of South Kordofan State, one of the two regions where fighting between the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N has persisted, announced that the Sudanese army was on the outskirts of Kauda, despite a recent ceasefire. The Governor went on to claim that 90 percent of the State’s territory is now in the hands of the government.

On 27 June, gunmen attacked several villages in Northern Darfur, leading to one woman being killed and another raped.

The Sudanese government informed the US Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan that it would reject any proposal to amend the AU’s Roadmap for Peace in Sudan. The opposition has proposed a supplemental agreement to the Roadmap, which they have yet to sign out of fears that it will legitimize the Sudanese government.


On Wednesday, the besieged towns of Zamalka and Erbin received their first aid shipments since 2012. The two towns, home to 20,000 people, had been the only besieged areas, out of the UN’s list of 18 to not yet receive aid shipments.

Syrian and Russian airstrikes allegedly killed at least 25 people and injured dozens more in the town of al-Quria in Deir al-Zor province on Saturday. The majority of the province is under the control of ISIL, with the strikes having been said to have hit both a crowded marketplace as well as a mosque. On 27 June, 5 people died and a further 15 were wounded in a series of suicide-bomber attacks in the predominantly Christian Lebanese village of Qaa. ISIL fighters forced the New Syria Army, a rebel group directly funded and created by the US to fight ISIL, alongside with several other rebel factions, from several positions they had captured in their assault on the city of Al-Bukamal the day before.

On Tuesday, Russia’s Ambassador to Syria, Alexander Kinshchak, told reporters that he does not see assaults on either Aleppo or Raqqa by the Syrian government happening in the near future. Last week, Syrian government forces were expelled from Raqqa province by an ISIL counter-assault, losing in three days what had taken them over three weeks to capture. However, Brett McGurk, U.S. President Barack Obama’s special envoy in the fight against Islamic State, stated to a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that Raqqa, the de-facto capital of ISIL’s self-proclaimed caliphate, would be the next target of the international coalition after the Syria Democratic Forces seize Manjib from ISIL in northern Syria.

On 27 June, the Syrian opposition negotiating at Geneva, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), stated that the European Union should enact a sanctions regime against thoseRussian companies which are supporting the Assad regime’s war effort in Syria.

24 NGOs asked by the UN to help facilitate and support the Syrian peace talks in Geneva threatened to quit the peace process all together. The NGOS wrote that the threat is due to the inability to halt the fighting on the ground and the continued attacks on civilians and NGOs operating within Syria. The letter calls for an actual ceasefire to be implemented, one that has the ability to be enforced and includes specific measures to protect civilians, airdrops of aid for besieged areas, and the creation of a war crimes tribunal for Syria.

On 27 June, the US sent Russia a proposal for the establishment of a new military partnership for the two countries in Syria. The new partnership would see the two nations cooperating at an as of yet unseen level, with the US pledging to cooperate in the planning and targeting of al-Nusra with Russia while the Russians would in turn pressure the Assad regime into halting attacks on certain US-backed rebels in Syria. Recent sources within the Russian government have reported that Russia would agree to Assad stepping down as President of Syria, but only in the event of a suitable replacement being found that would not cause the Syrian government, as well as its alliance with Russia, to collapse.


The UN Secretary General lambasted both sides in the Yemeni civil war, citing a number of gross violations of the ceasefire in place by both the government and the Houthi rebel alliance. The Secretary General has personally intervened into the peace negotiations this past week in hopes of stemming the continuing violence. Despite Ban Ki-moon’s efforts, negotiators in Kuwait from both the Yemeni government and the Houthi alliance released that they are preparing to release a joint statement announcing the suspension of peace talks until mid-July. The suspension of peace talks has been called a move from both sides to save face in light of having reached an impasse.

The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has announced that this break would herald a new phase of the negotiations after the submission of his Roadmap for Peace, which includes steps for the formation of a unity government as well as ideas on how to  break past the disagreements once the suspension of talks is over.

Highlighting the continued tension, former President Saleh, who has allied himself and troops loyal to him with the Houthis, announced he would refuse to accept the currently internationally recognized Yemeni government of President Hadi and would attempt to move forward with his own peace plan.

On 26 June, 41 people died in fighting between the Houthi rebel alliance and the Yemeni government across the country. The fighting comes in the wake of the deaths of a further 31 people on 24 June in what has become a steady intensifying of the conflict. ISIL killed 43 people in a series of attacks across the southern city of Mukalla. Additional clashes between the Houthis and Yemeni government killed 80, including 37 civilians.

On 30 June, both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International demanded that Saudi Arabia be removed from the United Nations Human Right Council (UNHRC) in response to both their domestic human rights record as well as their military campaign in Yemen.

What else is new?

On 27 June, the Fund for Peace released  its annual Fragile States Index for 2016. 178 countries are ranked annually in the Index, based off of their perceived stability and the current and future dangers that they face.

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect held their sixth annual Global Meeting of R2P Focal Points.

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#R2P Weekly: 23 November – 4 December


ICRtoP launches call for blog submissions: Lend your voice to the global debate

Featuring leading experts on RtoP and practitioners directly working to prevent atrocities, ICRtoP’s blog on the Responsibility to Protect provides a forum for reflection on a range of issues related to the norm. Whether focusing on country situations, thematic issues, or normative and institutional developments at all levels, the ICRtoPblog.org is a leading online resource on the Responsibility to Protect.

Are you dedicated to preventing atrocity crimes through your academic leadership, policy influence, or direct work to protect populations? Do you want to be a part of and inform the debate on the Responsibility to Protect? Would you like to have an impact on the development of RtoP and action to prevent atrocity crimes? If so, then the ICRtoP invites you to submit an abstract for consideration to be a guest writer for our blog. Submissions should be no longer than 1500 words, and can focus on a diverse range of issues not yet explored on our site. If selected, the ICRtoP will welcome your final post of to be published on the blog, featured in our newsletter, and shared on our social media channels.

Submissions will be welcomed on a rolling basis and can be sent to info@responsibilitytoprotect.org. Please use “ICRtoP blog abstract” in the subject line.

Catch up on developments in…

Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
South Sudan
Sri Lanka


Since the ceasefire last April, the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) have documented eight cases of sexual violence committed by the Burmese Army, with the most recent on 5 November. Only two of the eight cases have led to arrests of the perpetrators. The SHRF have also accused the military of bombing schools and temples and firing on civilians, which has displaced more than 10,000 people.
In their first meeting since the National League of Democracy’s (NLD) win in the November elections, Aung San Suu Kyi met with current Myanmar president, Thein Sein. According to a statement, the two agreed to “to cooperate on stability and peace, the rule of the law, unity and reconciliation and development of the country as regards to the wishes of the people.”


The African Union Peace and Security Council has temporarily paused the deployment of peacekeepers to Burundi and has voted to increase the number of specialized observers, including military experts, police, and human rights observers. The AU has also indicated that should the situation deteriorate, it is ready to quickly deploy the Eastern African Standby Force.
Armed vigilante units have materialized in several areas. The units patrol at night, most notably where anti-government protests erupted earlier in the year. An anonymous leader interviewed by Reuters noted that “since the government has been killing people, we decided to come up with this initiative to protect ourselves.”

Various civil society groups, including the ICGLR National Civil Society Committee, Uganda Chapter, and women’s rights groups, have called for action against the increasingly volatile spiral of violence in Burundi specifically appealing to the African Union, East African Community, African Union Peace and Security Council, and the larger international community to put in place a humanitarian corridor or buffer zone to facilitate relief operations in addition to deploying peacekeepers.

The government “suspended” 10 civil society groups, including the Association for the Protection of Human RIghts and Detained Persons (APRODH), accusing the groups of fueling widespread violence. The groups have seen their bank accounts frozen by Prosecutor General Valentine Bagorikunda.UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has condemned the Burundian government’s decision, noting that civil society organizations should be able to carry out their legitimate activities without restriction.

United Nations Secretary-General Bank Ki-moon outlined three options per the United Nations Security Council’s request for options: a U.N. peacekeeping mission, a special political mission or a support team for the special advisor on Burundi, with emphasis on the latter as a recommendation.

At least seven people including a police officer and civilians were killed overnight in separate instances in the Burundian capital and surrounding area in the latest wave of violence, which civil society groups say has already killed more than 240 people.

Central African Republic:

The ODI – Humanitarian Policy Group has released a report detailing how people in the Central African Republic are affected by conflict in the context of protection threats, how they are mitigated, and expectations from those wishing to provide protection.
UNICEF announced that more than a million children in the Central African Republic are in need of immediate humanitarian aid with almost half of those under the age of five reportedly being malnourished.

David Zounmenou, a senior researcher at leading African think-tank Institute for Security Studies, stated this week that Central African Republic authorities were neither prepared to provide adequate security nor able to guarantee all eligible voters would be represented on the voters’ roll in the upcoming December elections.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Fighting between the U.N.-backed Congolese army and Islamist Ugandan rebels killled 30 at a hospital, seven of whom were hacked to death.. Intelligence gaps, poor coordination, and lack of resources have left the Congolese army and U.N. peacekeeping force ineffective in the face of the armed ADF group, estimated at only a few hundred fighters.

Gaza/West Bank:

Human Rights Watch published their letter to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor on the Court’s preliminary investigation in Palestine. The letter calls for violations associated with Israeli settlement policies committed during the 2014 fighting in the Gaza Strip to be thoroughly scrutinized by the Prosecutor’s office.

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, expressed concern at the slow progress on the case concerning the arson attack against the Dawabsha family in the village of Duma in the West Bank four months ago, calling on the Israeli authorities to “move swiftly in bringing the perpetrators of the this terrible crime to justice.”


Officials found a booby-trapped mass grave close to Sinjar, northern Iraq, containing the remains of at least 110 people from the minority Yazidi group. The mayor of Sinjar appealed to international organisations for help in collecting evidence for the International Criminal Court of ISIL’s alleged genocide of the Yazidis.

A suicide bomber killed six people and wounded sixteen on Saturday in Tuz Khurmatu, northern Iraq.

The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) reported that a “vicious circle of violence”, including acts of terrorism and armed conflict, had killed 489 civilians and injured 869 civilians in November 2015. Baghdad was the most affected city, with 1,110 civilian victims (325 killed, 785 injured).

In his second report on children and armed conflict in Iraq,UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned in the “strongest possible terms” the continuous grave violations committed against children in the armed conflict in Iraq. He especially deplored the abhorrent violations against the rights of children committed by ISIL, which may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.

The Turkish army reported a new wave of airstrikes by its warplanes on northern Iraq in the latest assault on targets belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The operation involved 22 fighter jets and 23 targets were hit.


Amnesty International said that the Kenyan government’s interference in the independence of the International Criminal Court during the Assembly of State Parties (ASP) was “a shocking indictment” of the country’s campaign to deny justice to victims during 2008’s post-election violence. Amnesty alleged that the government of Kenya effectively attempted to blackmail the ASP to comply to its demands, which would undermine the trial of the country’s Deputy President, William Samoei Ruto, by threatening to withdraw from the ICC. Although the proposal was defeated, Amnesty say it is a stark warning of the ASP’s vulnerability to state demands.


Martin Kobler, the new UN envoy to Libya, expressed his hope that the peace accord establishing a unity government between Libya’s rival bodies would soon be signed. In a jointstatement, the Governments of Algeria, France, Germany, Italy, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States encouraged both rival governments to sign the UN brokered peace deal. The Tebu and Tuareg, two rival tribes from southern Libya who have been in a battle for control of the oil fields since 2011, signed their own peace agreement in Qatar. The parties agreed to a ceasefire and the removal of armed elements from Ubari.

ISIL’s presence in Sirte has now expanded into a 5000-strong body that includes administrators and financiers, according to Libyan officials in the area. A UN report corroborated such an assessment, saying that ISIS’s leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, “exerts more control over its Libyan affiliate than any other chapter of the group outside Syria and Iraq and views Libya as the best opportunity to expand its so-called caliphate.” ISIL’s social media accounts are also calling on volunteers to join in Libya instead of Syria or Iraq.


The German Defense Minister announced that the government of Germany would send up to 650 soldiers to support MINUSMA. A statement released by the Malian Army has said that two Malians were arrested in Bamako in regards to the attack last week on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital city.

A rocket was fired by unknown attackers at a UN peacekeeping base in northern Mali, killing three, including two peacekeepers, and wounding 20. The UN Security Council condemned the rocket attack, noting that it could constitute a war crime. It further urged the Malian government to investigate the attack and to hold those responsible accountable.


A government spokesperson warned that the Nigerian president’s deadline to crush Boko Haram by December would not be met. As if to underscore his point, a march by Shia Muslims was interrupted by a Boko Haram suicide attack, killing 21. Residents of Gulak reported that Boko Haram had destroyed a Nigerian military base, and that civilian fighters had assisted in preventing the terrorists from overtaking the enitre town until the military sent reinforcements.

South Sudan:

The Sudan’s People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) called for the international community and rights activists to heed its call for unrestricted humanitarian access to war-affected areas. The call came after the government’s negotiating team declined a proposal submitted by mediators, which requested a ceasefire and humanitarian access to rebel-controlled areas.

Warning of a further spiral in the cycle of revenge killings on a mass scale, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended an extra 1,100 peacekeepers be deployed to South Sudan.

At least 25 civilians have been massacred in eastern South Sudan by rebel groups, marking a targeted attack in one of the last remaining Anyuak ethnic communities in the region. Barnabas Okony, a member of parliament from the Anuak community, said that the rebels had ordered all men and boys to be killed, and leaving the girls and some mothers for sexual abuse or exploitation.

The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said that its workers had resumed operations this week and were able to reach thousands in southern Unity State. Civilians in the area had been cut-off from assistance after fighting resumed in October.  Joint assessment teams have found that without food, livelihood assistance, nutrition and health services, the situation is on track for degenerate even further in the beginning of 2016.

Sri Lanka:

Chandrika Kumaratunga, head of the reconciliation unit of President Sirisena’s government,announced that a Special Court to examine alleged war crimes during the civil war would begin its work by early January.


While food insecurity and lack of shelter or health services plague many displaced Darfuris, for the first time since 2011 an inter-agency mission has been finally able to visit Jebel Marra, where the majority of displaced people were in need of emergency services as well as water, education, and protection services.

According to UNICEF, roughly two million Sudanese children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition annually, with nearly 550,000 of them suffering from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition in the east and conflict-hit Darfur regions. UNICEF also noted that up to 16,000 children have been forced into fighting since the beginning of 2015.


Russia launched intensified attacks on “terrorist” targets in Syria, firing long-range cruise missiles from warships in the Caspian Sea. Russian military said it fired 18 cruise missiles on Friday, destroying seven “Islamist” targets in Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo provinces. However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that Russian air strikes in Syria have killed 1,331 people since their campaign began on September 30: 381 ISIL fighters, 547 militants from Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front and other rebel forces and 403 civilians, including 97 children. In an additional attack, SOHR reported that Russian warplanes killed at least 18 people in the town of Ariha that is held by opposition forces, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). U.S. officials stated that reports of heavy civilian casualties from Russian airstrikes in Syria are a main reason why the two powers are unlikely to cooperate in bombing ISIL. President Obama did nevertheless affirm that Russia could join the “broad-based coalition” led by the U.S. if it shifts its focus from defending President Bashar al-Assad.

British warplanes began bombing ISIL targets in Syria for the first time late on Wednesday, hours after Britain’s House of Commons voted to extend its airstrikes against the extremist group. Prior to the vote, the UK had limited its operations against ISIL to Iraq, but Prime Minister David Cameron won the vote by 397-223 to bomb the group in its Syrian “heartland”.

In other news from SOHR, the civil society organization reported a total death toll of 4182 people in November 2015. Among the fatalities were 1053 civilians, including 198 children and 116 women, killed by airstrikes by regime and Russian air forces, ISIL attacks, US-led coalition airstrikes, inside regime jails, shells launched by Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG), Jabhat al-Nusra, the rebels and Islamist factions, shelling by the regime forces, firing by the Turkish border guards, explosions, snipers, in unknown circumstances and due to poor health conditions and lack of medicine. SOHR reiterated its call to members of the UN Security Council to issue a binding resolution that prohibits targeting civilians in Syria.

Human Rights Watch reported that Turkey has effectively closed its borders with Syria and is returning Syrian asylum seekers without assessing their asylum claims. Reports emerged of Turkish border guards intercepting Syrian asylum seekers at or near the Turkish border and in some cases beating and detaining them before expelling back to Syria.

UNICEF Representative in Syria Hanaa Singer reported that a Syria-regime air strike on a water treatment plant in Aleppo last Thursday cut water supplies to some 3.5 million people, and while pumping has been partly restored, 1.4 million still have interruptions in their supply.


UN OCHA, in its 2016 Humanitarian Needs Overviewreported that around 21.2 million people in Yemen (82% of the population) are in need of some kind of assistance to meet their basic needs. The overview shows that six months of war have taken a “severe toll” on civilians’ lives and basic rights. The UN World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, reported that more than 15.2 million Yemenis now lack access to health care services, more than half the country’s total population, while there is a 55% gap in requested international funding to address the crisis. The WHO needs $83 million to address the health care crisis but has so far only received $37 million.

UN Humanitarian Aid chief Stephen O’Brien accused Yemen’s Houthi rebels of blocking and diverting aid deliveries to the city of Taez, where 200,000 people are living under siege and which continues to be held by government and loyalist forces.

Human Rights Watch released a report with allegations of unlawful airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition on Houthi rebels, which have resulted in civilian deaths and casualties. Human Rights Watch alleges Saudi Arabia, its coalition partners, and also the United States, have failed to investigate the unlawful airstrikes.

Al-Qaeda fighters drove pro-government forces out of Jaar in southern Yemen on Wednesday in a new show of strength by the group, whose presence in the war ravaged country is reportedly expanding. The fighting in Jaar killed 15 people. Al-Qaeda also consolidated their control over territory in southern Yemen after fighters captured the towns of Zinjibar and Jaar from pro-government forces.

The British ambassador to the United Nations, Matthew Rycroft, said on Wednesday that long-delayed peace talks on the Yemeni conflict could finally begin in Geneva in mid-December. Mr Rycroft said the threat posed by extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda highlighted the need to find an urgent resolution. UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed has tried for weeks to launch peace talks, but no date has been announced.

What else is new?

The ICRtoP and the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect will be holding the third workshop in the series “Advancing Atrocities Prevention in Southeast Asia” in Kuala Lumpur from 7-9 December. The workshop will convene civil society from Myanmar and Malaysia for a training on the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes and sessions on formulating national action plans for civil society on atrocities prevention.

Liberal International will be hosting a conference at the EU Parliament in Brussels and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group (ALDE Group) on 10 December entitled: “The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) Ten Years On: What Next?” Angela Patnode, ICRtoP’s Communications and Advocacy Officer, will be presenting on the panel “Is RtoP Dead? Syria, Ukraine, and Beyond”. ICRtoP members and partners based in the area are welcome to attend, please contact info@responsibilitytoprotect.org for more information.

A special issue of Global Society entitled “Contesting and Shaping the Norms of Protection: The Evolution of a Responsibility to Protect” is now available. The issue includes a collection of papers by researchers from around the world that analyze the debates about RtoP at key moments over the past ten years.

The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation is offering a graduate-level Genocide Prevention Certificate (GPC), in collaboration with Stockton University. Click on the link for more information.


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Darfur ICC Referral Turns 10: Reflections on the Troubled Path to Accountability

March 31st, 2015 marks ten years since the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1593 referring the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court. Ten years later, little progress has been made in the pursuit of peace and justice. The Sudanese leadership, including President Omar al-Bashir who was indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity, has yet to be brought before the Court. Worryingly, many commentators are warning of a new threat of genocide as the government carries out a brutal “scorched-earth” counter-insurgency campaign against rebel groups.

ICRtoP Blog and Social Media Coordinator Matthew Redding had the privilege of speaking to our partners at the International Justice Project (IJP) to discuss the ICC referral and the challenges and opportunities associated with its implementation. Read on to learn how these impact efforts to ensure accountability for atrocities committed in Darfur, and in turn, to uphold the Responsibility to Protect Darfuris from future violence.


To begin with, let’s start with a brief overview of what the IJP believes are the main obstacles that have prevented the International Criminal Court (ICC) from bringing those indicted for atrocity crimes to justice after Resolution 1593 first referred the situation in Darfur to the Court in 2005?


Those who believe that a huge step forward was taken with the ratification of the Rome Statute are correct. As of now, 123 nations have committed themselves to supporting a permanent court with its own jurisprudence and an independent existence. However, the ratification of the treaty and its coming into force and effect as of 2002, did not end the struggle for international justice. Among other things, there will perhaps always be a tension between sovereignty and the status of sitting heads of states on the one hand, and the reach of international justice on the other.


Omar al-Bashir at the 12th African Union Summit. US Navy Photo/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt/Released.

This is evidenced by the fact that the two most controversial cases at the Court – charges against the president of Kenya and those against the president of Sudan – have been mired in controversy, and at this point must be regarded as unsuccessful proceedings.

In that context, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that there has been significant political, ideological, and diplomatic opposition, couched in jurisprudential terms, to the prosecution of Omar al-Bashir for genocide.

Additionally, whether it is a matter of the will of states or fiscal conservatism, the two referrals from the UN Security Council, including Darfur, have not been accompanied by financial support for their prosecution. Indeed, the Court has had to weather years of “zero budget growth” that produces general inadequacies in staffing and funding for the prosecution, defense function and victim participation. So on the whole, some of the obstacles to preventing the Bashir case are precisely those kinds of rough waters one should have expected the Court to encounter, while others are particular to the Darfur situation and Bashir case. Some member states of the Arab League and the African Union in particular have placed other interests ahead of the challenge of combating genocide.

Any observer who believes the mere existence of the Court and treaty are sufficient in and of themselves to guarantee justice is prizing hope over experience.


There are those who suggest that the backlash against the ICC referral, for example, Omar al Bashir’s decision to expel humanitarian organizations for their alleged cooperation with the Court, means that in some instances justice should be deferred for the sake of peace and stability. Others have suggested that Bashir has succeeded in politicizing the investigation in a manner that has only allowed him to tighten his grip on power. What does IJP have to say about these claims, and the overall relationship between justice and conflict resolution?


The peace or justice debate relies on a false premise. That premise is that peace and justice are somehow mutually exclusive and that either can be obtained at the expense of the other. It is difficult to conceive, for example, after years of interaction with the Darfurian diaspora and with Sudanese and other sympathizers, that there will ever be peace in Darfur without some true accounting for the genocide that transpired. On the other hand, timing can often be crucial.

It is widely accepted that the timing of the ICC investigation and warrants against Joseph Kony did interfere with a legitimate peace process. This criticism has been frequently articulated by friends of the Court in Uganda. However, few of them would argue that there was never going to be an appropriate time to bring warlords like Kony to account under the statute. Returning to Darfur, the attempt for an Article 16 deferral in 2008 on the grounds of a sincere peace initiative in Sudan was a ruse, and ultimately seen as one by the international community. The countless efforts “at peace” – and the consistent failures – have nothing to do with any attempts at prosecuting Bashir. Indeed, a stronger argument can be made that the failure to bring Bashir to account in The Hague has instead encouraged the ruling clique in Khartoum to believe that mass atrocities are a viable policy option, and has led to enhanced attacks in the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, and throughout Sudan, and ultimately making it more likely that the two Sudans would divide.

As to the point of “politicization”, it is true that Bashir has been adept at politicizing his circumstance. For some time, he played the “Islamist card”, letting certain Western countries believe that he could be a source of intelligence and a bulwark against violent Jihadis and terrorists. He argued to anti-Western forces that the ICC process is a western colonial project, and he has suggested that it is also an anti-Muslim, anti-Arab institution. At the end of the day, all such allegations can only be addressed in a fair and open trial in which the question of Bashir’s culpability, and that of his lieutenants who have been charged, are tested against well-settled principles of international humanitarian law in a process that for more than half a century has been widely accepted as fair.

In short, we reject any theoretical or practical opposition between justice and peace, and think that rigorous commitment to justice and sincere and common sense efforts at peace must go hand in hand and are not irreconcilable.


In December of last year, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda announced that she was “shelving” her investigation due to frustrations over the lack of cooperation shown by the United Nations Security Council. What effect does this decision have on future prospects for justice in Darfur? Why is cooperation between the ICC and the Security Council so important?


Let us start by saying IJP continues to have full confidence in Fatou Bensouda. She is an honest, professional, dedicated prosecutor who is being hamstrung by the failure of the international community to fully support her efforts in the Bashir case. That said, we were unhappy with her use of the word “hibernation” in her appearance at the Security Council in December 2014, not because it was an inaccurate term, but because it was twisted by enemies of the Court and comforters of Bashir to mean that the ICC had given up its efforts at prosecution with respect to the Bashir case and Darfur situation.

fatou bensouda ICC

Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda. Photo via Journalists for Justice.

We fully understand that she was functioning under the circumstances in which the Security Council had given her virtually no support in the ten years since Resolution 1593 in the form of council, advice, fiscal assistance, or robust cooperation (we should note that other members of the international community, including several members of the ICC Assembly of States Parties, had failed to arrest Bashir when he was on their territories), and that tensions within the P-5, particularly with respect to the Chinese and Russians, meant that even the informal powers of persuasion of the Council had not been robustly employed to assist in bringing Bashir to account. Since Bensouda’s speech, the Court ruled that because this is a Security Council referral, both Sudan and all other member states of the United Nations are obligated to assist in cooperating with respect to the Bashir case. This marks an important milestone, and it will be important to see whether the Security Council and other regional and subregional organizations are willing to take a stand in support of justice.


What measures can the Security Council take to help enforce arrest warrants issued by the ICC? If the Security Council continues to waver over Darfur, what alternatives are there?


The measures that the Security Council can take are straightforward. It can be more comprehensive in the sanctions that it imposes on all members of the Sudanese government and leadership in terms of travel and holding resources abroad. It can insist that member states arrest Bashir, and could establish a sanctions regime for those who fail to arrest him when he travels. Minimally, it could urge member states to uphold their duties with respect to cooperation with the ICC. In other words, the Security Council could live up to its mandate under the UN Charter and insist that an accused, albeit a sitting head of state, be brought to account before a recognized Court, in connection with which it has statutory responsibilities for the most serious crimes that persons can commit against each other.


What does the renewed spectre of atrocities seen in the government’s latest “counter-insurgency” campaign, along with UN reports that up to 400,000 were displaced in 2014 alone, demonstrate about the Court’s ability to prevent future atrocities in a country where an investigation is ongoing?


We think it’s self-evident from what we’ve said before that the continued failure of the Security Council, some members of the Assembly of States Parties, and many members of the international community to rigorously assist the Court in pursuing justice in Darfur, strikes at the very heart of the integrity of modern ideas about humanitarian justice. It also strikes at the heart of international obligations in cases of genocide where the duty of the international community to “prevent and to punish” is clear. Some have argued that the great lesson of World War II was a commitment for the world not to be a bystander in the face of genocide. It can fairly be said with respect to Sudan that alongside Bashir, who faces charges of genocide, are the rest of us who face Bashir, who might meet charges of having stood silent and not exercised sovereign and other responsibilities to bring him to account.


What “lessons learned” can be drawn from this case, and how can these be applied to improve the effectiveness of international justice as a tool for responding to and preventing the commission of mass atrocities? For example, what can be done in cases where a lack of regional support for an ICC investigation leads to obstruction or non-compliance?


Before directly answering this final question, we think it important to address the sub-textual issue of the response of the AU and some African states to the charges against Bashir. Initially, it has been said that some resistance to the Bashir case is the result of African states concerned that currently all “situations” before the Court are in Africa. We think that this is a red herring. The 34 African states that have ratified the Rome Statute constitute the most robust regional response to the Rome project. Furthermore, despite various controversies – ideological, jurisprudential, and diplomatic – not a single African state has sought to withdraw from the treaty. The elevation of Fatou Bensouda to the position of Chief Prosecutor, and the fact that the ASP is currently lead by President Sadiki Kaba, further suggests that Africa is indeed deeply engaged with the Court (if a decade from now, all situations are in Africa, this may be a different kind of picture).

Haboob Chase in Darfur

A Rwandan member of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) stands guard. UN Photo/Albert González Farran.

With respect to regional efforts, there is a great deal of controversy surrounding the advent of an African Court of Justice and Human Rights. Far from being a negative development, this reveals movement in the direction of the idea of complementarity that lies at the core of the Preamble and Article 1 of the Rome Statute. While IJP is opposed to the concept of immunity for sitting heads of state, which is part of the statute, on the whole, this African court should be viewed as a positive development, and the self-righteous response to it – even from some supporters of the ICC – is inappropriate.

This is not to ignore the fact that there are some leaders within the African continent who may very well feel personally threatened by the ICC, but this is, as we noted, a very logical and expected response from those who seek impunity. We mention this because one lesson learned can be to continue to be flexible and to take seriously the concept of universality in responding to initiatives from other parts of the world, and in many instances, to expect some opposition from vested interests in the robust application of justice.

Although the IJP was founded by two lawyers, Raymond Brown and Wanda Akin, who represent victims in the Darfur situation and Bashir case, we have been forced to learn new skills and to collaborate in the context of our representation. We are, for example, private citizens untrained in diplomacy, and yet we have had to learn in the last decade how to interact creatively with representatives of states – many of them non-lawyers, and many of them only minimally exposed to the details of the justice project with which we have spent a lifetime. We have collaborated with organizations who function in different environments, but with common objectives, such as the Pan African Lawyers Union, with whom as recently as November 2014, alongside the International Refugee Rights Initiative, we gathered and interacted with African human rights activists to explore challenges facing the Court.

We have also expanded our own work into an area sometimes known as “transitional justice”, which has involved developing a means of chasing Bashir (BashirWatch coalition) and working with universities to develop mechanisms for combating the understandable diasporian-wide depression affecting Darfurian diaspora. We have also become more engaged with our own government – with members of Congress and friends within the Executive branch – to encourage the US to assert more leadership, and perhaps even amend its own laws to permit the US to exercise more effective leadership in favor of justice and in opposition to genocide. We continue to teach at the university and law school levels and make public appearances to speak to a wide variety of groups and organizations on behalf of the Darfurian people. We have expanded the reach of our own Darfurian contacts, including within the Darfur People’s Association of New York, the Darfur Rehabilitation Project, and other advocacy groups, and finally, we have exposed a generation of undergraduate and graduate students, new professionals, and public leaders to these issues on an intimate level.

With ten years having passed since Resolution 1593, and still no accused in the dock, we encourage others to similarly advocate and send letters to their own governments promoting leadership on Darfur. A redacted version of our letter can be found here. Finally, thank you to the ICRtoP for providing this opportunity, and for its longstanding commitment to pursuing justice.


Filed under African Union, genocide, Guest Post, International Criminal Court, Justice

Children in Armed Conflict: A War Crime We Have the Responsibility to Prevent

The following is a guest blog from ICRtoP member Child Soldiers International. Child Soldiers International works to end the military recruitment of children and their use in hostilities, as well as other human rights abuses resulting from their association with armed forces or groups. They promote the release of children, seek their successful return to civilian life, and call for accountability for those who recruit and use them.

More than 50 parties to armed conflict are listed by the UN Secretary-General for recruiting and using children in armed conflict in a variety of capacities. And this list is not exhaustive. The recruitment and use of children by armed forces and armed groups is not only a disturbingly widespread practice: when perpetrated against children under 15 years of age it is a war crime.

Ensuring accountability for such war crimes, along with crimes against humanity and genocide is an essential part of upholding the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP), as well as establishing a basis for sustainable peace and reconciliation. The International Criminal Court (ICC), which came into force in 2002, is the first permanent international judicial body mandated to investigate the commission of atrocity crimes and try alleged perpetrators when judicial mechanisms prove insufficient at the national level. Read on for excellent insight from Child Soldiers International on the importance of accountability and rehabilitation in ending the use and recruitment of child soldiers.

Rebel fighters surrender to FARDC

Child soldiers separated from the Mai Mai militia after surrendering to FARDC in the DRC. UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti

Accountability as Prevention

At Child Soldiers International, we believe that accountability for child recruitment is a crucial component of any strategy aimed at eradicating the use of child soldiers. States have a duty to investigate alleged violations committed by all parties to an armed conflict and prosecute those alleged to be responsible with a view to providing remedies to victims, and preventing the repetition of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

However, too many perpetrators continue to evade accountability: such impunity not only denies victims justice and reparations, but it also produces an environment conducive to the continuing perpetration of these crimes. Accountability is an essential component of prevention, and prevention is the most important aspect of the Responsibility to Protect.

Yet, time and again, accountability is dismissed as an obstacle to peace and stability. ‘Pragmatic’ considerations are often invoked – including by child protection agencies – to justify amnesties or de facto immunity for authors of child recruitment in order to secure the release of children from the ranks of armed forces and armed groups, for example. However, we believe that peace is neither achievable, nor sustainable without accountability. This has been repeatedly demonstrated in the context of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where impunity and integration into the armed forces of suspected perpetrators have simply fuelled further instability and consequent child recruitment.

While amnesties may be pursued for the sake of peace, stability or demobilisation efforts, it is well established (and it is a long standing UN policy) that they cannot be extended to individuals suspected of crimes under international law considered under RtoP – including war crimes like the use and recruitment of children in hostilities, as well as crimes against humanity and genocide.

Accountability and the ICC

When national authorities fail to take action, the International Criminal Court (ICC) offers potential recourse.In December 2014 we welcomed the conviction of former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo before the ICC. Mr Lubanga was found guilty of the crimes of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 into his militia, the Patriotic Force for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), and using them to participate actively in hostilities. In its first judgment, the ICC signalled that these crimes warranted international attention and would not go unpunished.


Thomas Lubanga on trial at the ICC. Lubanga was ultimately found guilty of the war crime of the use and recruitment of child soldiers. Reuters.

We have observed the deterrent effect of this conviction: in the DRC, where Mr Lubanga’s militia was operating, our partners negotiating the release of children from armed groups report that some commanders who have become aware of Mr Lubanga’s conviction are now fearful of the threat of criminal prosecution and have begun releasing children more systematically.

Similarly, in April 2012 we hailed the conviction of former Liberian President, Charles Ghankay Taylor, before the Special Court for Sierra Leone as a clear message from the international community that those who “aid and abet” armed groups that recruit and use children can and will be brought to justice. Mr Taylor was found guilty of a range of crimes under international law, including recruiting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities. In 2007, the Court had already convicted Alex Tamba Brima, Ibrahim Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, including the recruitment and use of children.

There is huge potential for the ICC to send similar strong messages that these war crimes will no longer be tolerated. It is encouraging to see that it is currently dealing with several other cases of alleged crimes relating to child soldiers, including that of former militia leader Bosco Ntaganda, also from the DRC.

A Former Child Soldier at The Hague

Another ICC case that relates to the issue of child soldiers is that of Dominic Ongwen. A former commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Ongwen was abducted as a child in his native Uganda, spent two decades in the LRA and was brought before the ICC last month. He is the only former child soldier appearing before the Court so far. The charges he faces do not relate to any role he had in the recruitment or use of children; they cover numerous attacks on civilians in 2004 and 2005. However, some are asking whether, as a former child soldier, Mr Ongwen should receive more leniency than other war crime suspects.

Dominic Ongwen’s precise age is unclear. Some reports say that he was abducted while walking to school as a 10-year-old. He himself reported being abducted at 14. In any event, no one is denying that Mr Ongwen, as a child, was the victim of a crime which tore him apart from his family environment and shaped the rest of his life.


Victor Ongwen makes his first appearance at the ICC accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. AFP.

It is alleged that he subsequently rose through the ranks of the LRA and became a senior commander involved in the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes. In 2005 the ICC had issued an arrest warrant for Vincent Otti, Joseph Kony, Dominic Ongwen and two other senior LRA members. In January, some 10 years later, one of those arrest warrants was realised when Mr Ongwen was transferred to the ICC.

His being a former child soldier raises the question about how such defendants can be justly treated in either national or international courts. This has caused some debate, particularly in Uganda where some community leaders and lawyers argue that former child soldiers are not wholly responsible for their actions.

The offences Mr Ongwen is charged with were committed during his adulthood. Using his own stated age, the offences under consideration allegedly took place when he was approximately 29 years old. Indeed the ICC has no jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed by someone who was under the age of 18 at the time (Rome Statute, Article 26). Mr Ongwen’s past experience as a child soldier may be relevant for his legal defence; however, without prejudice to other factual and legal issues, his being a victim of a similar crime is not a defence in itself. His status as a former child soldier may be more relevant at the sentencing stage, should he be found guilty. Once the Court establishes the correct sentence to impose on an offender, it must then consider whether it should be reduced to take into account the offender’s personal mitigating circumstances.

Rebel fighters surrender to FARDC

Demobilized child soldiers in the DRC. UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti.

It cannot be underestimated how significant these might be in Mr Ongwen’s case. Being abducted as a 10-year-old and experiencing the peripatetic and terrifying life of the LRA’s campaigns cannot but have had a lasting effect on any child. Many children associated with armed forces and armed groups will have endured severe beatings and sexual violence, and will have witnessed killings. Some will have victimised others. Extremely traumatic experiences within these groups are associated with marked emotional distress, behavioural difficulties and traumatic stress symptoms. Children’s ways of coping will be affected by whether they were able to demobilise, and by their post-conflict experiences. Those likely to fare better in the longer term are those who on return to their communities can receive family, peer and community understanding, support, acceptance and forgiveness. However, Mr Ongwen never went back: he grew into adulthood without being exposed to non-violent familial and community socialisation and developmental experiences.

Understanding and empathy towards victims of armed conflict must also be extended to those who emerge from such war-ravaged childhoods to commit crimes, even on a scale such as this. We believe that Mr Ongwen should not avoid justice because of his childhood experiences. However, it would be a potential injustice not to take into account his traumatic experiences when determining an appropriate sentence, should he be found guilty.

Case Studies for the Responsibility to Protect

Several lessons for RtoP can be gleaned from the cases above. First, accountability is the primary responsibility of national authorities, but failing this, can be achieved with the assistance of the international community, or through an ICC investigation. Accountability for crimes under international law such as the recruitment and use of child soldiers is essential for ending the cycle of violence and impunity that can lead to the re-commission of such crimes, as evidenced by the deterrent effect seen in the DRC.

In addition, as demonstrated by the Ongwen case, the RtoP extends to other post-conflict initiatives aimed at preventing future outbreaks of violence that can lead to the commission of atrocities. When dealing with child soldiers, it is critical for States to implement demobilization programmes that also include proper support that will aid the return to psychological well-being in emotionally distressed child soldiers. This, and associated work with their families and communities to facilitate their acceptance and forgiveness on return, is more likely to ensure peace in the longer term.

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Shocking report details the UN’s failure to protect the people of Sri Lanka

A United Nations (UN) report alleging the failure of the international body to uphold its responsibilities to protect civilians threatened by massive human rights violations during the Sri Lankan civil war was released on 14 November 2012, and quickly spurred impassioned reactions from civil society and UN actors. For many, the Report of the Secretary-General’s Internal Review Panel on United Nations Action in Sri Lanka confirmed their earlier claims that the UN did not act rapidly or robustly to protect the people of Sri Lanka. For others, the report was a shocking reality check that the international community still has a long way to go to build the necessary political will and capacity to respond to these deadly conflicts.

Large-scale civilian suffering during the civil war

The final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war, from August 2008 until May 2009, saw a dramatic escalation of violence between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), known as the Tamil Tigers, who had been fighting to establish the state of Tamil Eelam in the north of the country since the late 1970s. Violence was concentrated in the Wanni, a northern region, and clashes trapped hundreds of thousands of civilians without access to basic necessities or humanitarian aid.

At the time, several civil society organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, criticized the UN for its limited efforts to hold the Sri Lankan government accountable for likely war crimes and crimes against humanity. As noted in the report, the UN evacuated its staff in the Wanni in September 2008 when the government announced it would not be able to guarantee their security, and after that was largely unable to gain access to distribute humanitarian relief aid. With the end of the war in May 2009 came widespread calls to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to investigate the perpetrators of mass atrocities and UN efforts to protect civilians.  After a Panel of Experts, established by the UNSG, reported in April 2011 that many UN agencies and officials had not done enough to protect civilians, the UNSG created the Internal Review Panel on UN actions in Sri Lanka, which is responsible for the recently released report.

UN fails to protect Sri Lankan population

The report concludes that though the government and LTTE were primarily responsible for “killings and other violations” committed against the civilians trapped in the Wanni, the “events in Sri Lanka mark a grave failure of the UN to adequately respond to early warnings and to the evolving situation during the final stages of the conflict and its aftermath, to the detriment of hundreds of thousands of civilians and in contradiction with the principles and responsibilities of the UN.”

The report criticizes the UN for its overall lack of action on the crisis, condemning the evacuation of UN staff without protestation as a “serious failure”. According to the report, the UN system as a whole did not put enough political pressure on the government, and left its staff on the ground ill-prepared to deal with the escalating crisis. The report also draws attention to the fact that, though the UN officials had data on the number of civilian deaths and evidence that the government, in many cases, was responsible, they only reported on the violations committed by the LTTE. According to officials at the time, they were reluctant to release information about the government’s involvement out of fear it would further hinder their access to the population in the Wanni. The sole exception was a public statement issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on 13 March 2009, in spite of strong criticism by most UN senior officials, which reported on the number of casualties and declared that actions by the government and LTTE “may constitute international crimes, entailing individual responsibility, including for war crimes and crimes against humanity”.  The report concludes that “in fact, with its multiplicity of mandates and areas of expertise, the UN possessed the capabilities to simultaneously strive for humanitarian access while also robustly condemning the perpetrators of killings of civilians.”

According to the report, the low level of commitment to civilian protection in Sri Lanka was exacerbated by the inaction of Member States, who failed to take up the escalating crisis in the Security Council, Human Rights Council and General Assembly. To what extent was the commitment governments made in 2005 endorsing their collective responsibility to protect populations from crimes against humanity and war crimes considered during the crisis? The report notes that though RtoP was raised in the context of the war, states were unable to agree on how the norm could help the international community halt the ongoing violence. The report concludes that governments “failed to provide the Secretariat and UN [Country Team] with the support required to fully implement the responsibilities for protection of civilians that Member States had themselves set for such situations.”

Civil society and former UN officials clash over the report’s findings

Civil society organizations swiftly responded to the report, calling for accountability and to use the example of Sri Lanka as an impetus to strengthen UN protection capacities. On 14 November Amnesty International’s José Luis Díaz called the report a “wake-up call for UN member states that have not pushed hard enough for an independent international investigation into alleged war crimes committed by both Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE in the last phase of the war.”  Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch agreed, stating that the report serves as “a call to action and reform for the entire UN system.”  Additionally, Bolopion noted that “The UN’s dereliction of duty in Sri Lanka is a stark reminder of what happens when human rights concerns are marginalized or labeled as too political”.

Meanwhile, others reacted to the UN’s decision to evacuate its staff from the Wanni region. In reading the report, Edward Mortimer, who serves on the Advisory Council of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice and who formerly served as Director of Communications in the Executive Office of the UN, declared that he believed the UN left when they were most needed. The report, Mortimer stated, would show that the “UN has not lived up to the standards we expect of it…”

Benjamin Dix, a UN staff member in Sri Lanka that left the war zone, recalled his own doubts at the time, saying that he “believe[d] we should have gone further north, not evacuate south, and basically abandon the civilian population with no protection or witness….As a humanitarian worker questions were running through my mind – What is this all about? Isn’t this what we signed up to do?

Sir John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs at the time of the crisis and one of those whom the report blames for underreporting the government’s responsibility for the violence, defended the UN’s actions. Holmes told BBC that “the idea that if we behaved differently, the Sri Lankan government would have behaved differently I think is not one that is easy to reconcile with the reality at the time.”  In an attempt to provide clarity on the UN’s decision not to report casualty figures, UN spokesperson in Colombo, Sri Lanka at the time, Gordon Weiss, stated that, “It was an institutional decision not to use those [casualty lists] on the basis that those could not be verified and of course they couldn’t be verified because the government of Sri Lanka wasn’t letting us get anywhere near the war zone.” However, his remarks starkly contrast the findings of the report.

Some took the opportunity to remind that the report highlighted the ultimate failure of the Sri Lankan government to protect its population from mass atrocities.Steven Ratner, a professor at University of Michigan’s Law School, stated, “the UN failed, but the Sri Lankan government is ultimately most responsible…They are the ones who have not begun a bona fide accountability process.”  Echoing this, Amnesty International’s José Luis Díaz noted that “The report clearly illustrates the Sri Lankan government’s lack of will to protect civilians or account for very serious violations. There is no evidence that has changed.

Report shows challenges in implementation must not lead to inaction

The Secretary-General’s report not only shows the need to uphold the responsibility to protect populations in Sri Lanka by preventing a culture of impunity for crimes against humanity and war crimes, it emphasizes the critical gaps that the international community must address to strengthen its political will and overall capacity to respond to emerging and ongoing situations of RtoP crimes.

With regard to the Responsibility to Protect norm, the report concludes that, “The concept of a ‘Responsibility to Protect’ was raised occasionally during the final stages of the conflict, but to no useful result. Differing perceptions among Member States and the Secretariat of the concept’s meaning and use had become so contentious as to nullify its potential value. Indeed, making references to the Responsibility to Protect was seen as more likely to weaken rather than strengthen UN action.” This finding serves as a sober reminder to governments, UN officials and the international community as a whole that though we continue to address important questions about how to implement the Responsibility to Protect, these disagreements must never hinder our commitment to react when populations are in dire need of assistance.  The report as a whole underlines the prevailing importance of the prevention of and rapid response to RtoP crimes and violations by highlighting a tragic example of the consequences when the protection of populations is not prioritized.

The initial establishment of the Panel and the Secretary-General’s decision to make its findings public show a commitment to holding perpetrators of the crimes committed in Sri Lanka accountable. However, as Human Rights Watch’s Philippe Bolopion said, “While Ban deserves credit for starting a process he knew could tarnish his office, he will now be judged on his willingness to implement the report’s recommendations and push for justice for Sri Lanka’s victims.”  The UNSG stated that the report’s findings have “profound implications for our work across the world, and I am determined that the United Nations draws the appropriate lessons and does its utmost to earn the confidence of the world’s people, especially those caught in conflict who look to the Organization for help.”  We can only hope that this report will act as a much needed impetus to reform the system as a whole to better respond to protect populations from the most horrific crimes known to humankind.


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Civil Society Reflections on the Lubanga Trial

The International Criminal Court (ICC) delivered its first ever verdict on 14 March in the case of the Prosecutor vs. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, marking an historic day for the international legal body and the fight against impunity for the gravest breaches of international law. The decision was also an important milestone for the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP), as the ICC is an important tool under the norm’s preventive framework. The verdict sent a clear message to perpetrators of war crimes that such acts would not go unpunished.

The Court found Lubanga, the former President of the Union des patriotes Congolese (Union of Congolese Patriots or UPC) and Commander-in-Chief and political leader of UPC’s military wing, the Force patriotique pour la libération du Congo (Patriotic Force for the Liberation of the Congo) (FPLC), guilty of committing war crimes – in particular of conscripting, enlisting, and actively using children as soldiers – in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between September 2002 and August 2003.

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, found guilty by the International Criminal Court for actively using children under the age of 15 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (ICC/CPI/Evert-Jan Daniel/ANP)

Today, impunity ends for Thomas Lubanga and those who recruit and use children in armed conflict,” said the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy.In this age of global media, today’s verdict will reach warlords and commanders across the world and serves as a strong deterrent.”

Civil society organizations, including ICRtoP members Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS), Human Rights Network Uganda (HURINET), Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI), as well as the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), Amnesty International, and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) lauded the Lubanga verdict as an important step for the ICC in deterring and preventing egregious violations of international law.

CGS CEO Don Kraus remarked on the importance of the Lubanga verdict for the ICC and the rule of law:

“Lubanga’s guilty verdict is a landmark moment in the short history of the Court…“During the past decade we witnessed the Court mature from a fledgling institution, to one that delivers results, holds mass killers accountable, and helps bring justice to their victims. The precedents set in this case will affect how the ICC administers justice for the rest of this century, if not beyond.”

On the message the decision sends to would-be perpetrators, Géraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, international justice advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, stated:

The verdict against Lubanga is a victory for the thousands of children forced to fight in Congo’s brutal wars. Military commanders in Congo and elsewhere should take notice of the ICC’s powerful message: using children as a weapon of war is a serious crime that can lead them to the dock.”

A press release by ICRtoP Member HURINET and the Uganda Coalition for the ICC (UCICC) echoed both of these points, applauding the “sure and steady” process, which included victims in the proceedings, and the condemnation of the use of child soldiers in armed conflict, which, “deprive and rob children of their childhood, innocence and future.”

The verdict was also an opportunity to reflect on the processes of the Lubanga trial itself and the impact of the ICC’s intervention for the people in the Ituri region of the DRC, where Lubanga’s forces were most active.

While the decision was an historic moment for international justice, it was a long time coming: Lubanga was detained on 17 March 2006, but, according to the CICC, “two successive suspensions of the proceedings contributed to significant delays in the trial.” See HRW’s Q&A on the Lubanga trial, including why the proceedings were so delayed.

Concerns were also raised in the final judgment by the Court, which were echoed by HURINET and the UCICC, HRW, and the CICC in their respective statements, regarding the role of intermediaries in the Lubanga trial. It was found that the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) should not have relied on local individuals and/or organizations in the DRC to establish contact with witnesses in the case, as the evidence provided by a number of witnesses was deemed unreliable.

As such, both HRW and HURINET and the UCICC called for improved field investigations conducted directly by the OTP, and for greater regulation and supervision of the role intermediaries play in the Court’s processes.

HRW also expressed the urgent need to bring Lubanga’s co-accused, Bosco Ntaganda, to justice, with HURINET and the UCICC calling on all states to execute all remaining arrest warrants in the DRC.

Ntanganda was indicted by the ICC on 22 August 2006 for the same charges as Lubanga, but remains at large, and, according to the ICC, is allegedly still active as the Chief of Staff of the Congrès national pour la défense du people (CNDP) in North Kivu in the DRC.

This touched on a more general concern raised by HRW, who stated that the scope of the ICC’s involvement in the DRC was not deep enough. The human rights organization contends that the charges brought against Lubanga were too narrow, and do not adequately reflect other atrocities committed by him and his militia in the DRC. Also, HRW stated:

The ICC’s docket in relation to the DRC – currently limited to one other trial involving two leaders of an armed group that opposed the UPC in Ituri – fails to address the causes and extent of horrific crimes endured by civilians throughout eastern Congo.”

HRW called for a broader investigation into a fuller range of serious crimes, “in particular against those who armed, financed, and directed armed groups in eastern Congo.”

Reflecting on the importance of the trial for the people in Ituri, IRRI and the Association pour la promotion et la défense de la dignité des victims (Association for the Promotion and the Defence of the Dignity of Victims) (APRODIVI) took stock of the Court’s intervention in the DRC in order to better understand its impact on one of the most war-affected regions of the country.

Steps Towards Justice, Frustrated Hopes: Reflecting on the Impact of the ICC in Ituri chronicles how after years of devastating internal warfare, much was expected of the ICC’s involvement in securing peace and justice in the region by its people, including in preventing further atrocities. Years later, despite a “degree of appreciation for the Court’s work” and the Lubanga verdict, the report details from first hand accounts with individuals and organizations on the ground in Ituri that action is still needed from many actors – from the Congolese government to the ICC to the international community of states – to improve accountability for crimes committed in the region.

While the ICC’s first conviction is being celebrated, it remains unknown whether Lubanga and his lawyers will exercise the right to appeal the decision, what the sentence for his crimes will be, and the manner in which providing reparations for victims will proceed.

The reflections of civil society organizations highlight the crucial importance of learning from the trial. And if learned and implemented, as William Pace, Executive Director of the World-Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy, Convenor of the CICC, and Co-Founder and Steering Committee member of ICRtoP stated, “the difficulties encountered during the course of this trial will serve to improve the expediency of those to follow and will someday bring about an end to the era of impunity.”  

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The RtoP and the ICC: Complementary in Prevention, Assistance and Response

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has delivered its first ever verdict with a finding of guilty in the case of the Prosecutor vs. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo on 14 March 2012.

In light of this, and with the ICC playing differing but integral roles in responding to mass atrocities in recent situations like Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, we’d like to expand on the relationship between the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) and the ICC. In this effort, we asked several ICRtoP member organizations, including the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists, Citizens for Justice and Accountability, the International Refugee Rights Initiative, and the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy to provide their reflections on the relationship.

The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) are two interconnected initiatives that seek to ensure that the world responds to mass atrocities and hold perpetrators of these egregious crimes accountable. At their core, however, the RtoP and the ICC are complementary in seeking to prevent these crimes from occurring altogether.

Both the RtoP and ICC articulate the primary responsibilities of states. The Rome Statute of the ICC provides that it is the primary responsibility of national authorities to investigate and prosecute individuals responsible for the commission of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

George Kegoro, Executive Director of the Kenya Section – International Commission of Jurists, explains this further: “The ICC is a ‘court of last resort’ – that is, its mandate is to prosecute only when domestic avenues have been exhausted, and where a State is unable or unwilling to prosecute those individuals responsible for the gravest of crimes.”

Similarly, RtoP bestows the primary responsibility to protect civilians from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing – the four ‘RtoP crimes’ – to the state. As William Pace, the Executive Director of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP), a founding Steering Committee Member of the ICRtoP and the Coalition for the ICC, notes, this synergy dates back to the march towards the creation of the ICC, as “RtoP emerged massively from the Rome Statute process – the same crimes, complementarity, national and international responsibility.”

However, as has been witnessed in countless situations, some states fail to uphold their obligations. In instances where states are willing but unable to protect populations, the second pillar of RtoP – international assistance and capacity-building – asserts that the United Nations (UN), its Member States, regional organizations, and civil society have a role to play in ensuring that those states receive the assistance necessary to assume their RtoP.

Similarly, the Assembly of States Parties of the ICC adopted a resolution at the May-June 2010 Kampala Review Conference which premised that the Court and its members, the States Parties to the Rome Statute, should provide the tools needed to assist states who were willing but unable to fulfill their Statute responsibilities. One such example of this was provided by Sulaiman Jabati, Executive Secretary of the Freetown, Sierra Leone-based Citizens for Justice and Accountability  (COJA), who said that the ICC should “expand its outreach activities in countries that have early warning signs for potential conflict.” In this sense, RtoP and the ICC are both complementary in calling for the provision for international assistance to ensure states uphold their primary responsibilities.

RtoP and the ICC are also complementary in instances where states are found both unable and unwilling to meet their responsibilities. The Rome Statute provides that when a state does not meet its primary obligations to prosecute individuals responsible for the commission of Statute crimes, it will ensure situations are investigated, warrants are issued, and those in its custody are prosecuted.

Similarly, when a state is found unable and unwilling to uphold its responsibility to protect civilians, the norm provides that the responsibility to protect those civilians yields to the UN and its Member States in cooperation with regional organizations.

Libya and Côte d’Ivoire: The ICC in the RtoP Toolkit

As the recent cases of Libya and Côte d’Ivoire have demonstrated, the Court is firmly engrained under RtoP’s third pillar – timely and decisive response – as a tool used to respond to situations where mass atrocities are threatened or have occurred, as well as to prevent further atrocities from being committed through deterrence.

In response to the situation in Libya, where the regime of the now-deceased Colonel Muammar Gaddafi committed widespread atrocities against civilian protesters beginning from 17 February onwards, the RtoP framework guided early and unprecedented action to avert further crimes against civilians. An ICC referral was one of the broad range of measures taken to halt the threat of crimes in this context.

On 26 February, the UN Security Council (UNSC) passed Resolution 1970, in which it referred the Libyan case to the ICC and imposed other non-coercive measures to respond to the crackdown. Pace calls the Resolution 1970, “one of the finest ever of the UNSC, and the process leading to the 15-0 decision [result of the vote] among the best examples of how the international community should maintain international peace and security.”

The investigation that ensued resulted in the indictments of Muammar Gaddafi, his son, Saif Gaddafi, and former intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi, which were announced by the Court while the conflict raged on. But, as Dismas Nkunda, Co-Director of the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI), suggests, the indictments being made while Libya was in the midst of a conflict were problematic. “The arrest warrants before the fall of Gaddafi regime played into the discourse being propagated by the African Union,” states Nkunda, “that the ICC was more interested in trying African leaders,” than finding peace in the country.

Furthermore, Nkunda said the process raised serious concerns on the African continent about the independence of the ICC from the influence of the UNSC, particularly as, “the Libyan case was seen to be biased against one side of the conflict.” Disquiet over the impartiality of the Court has thus led to concerns over the selective application of the RtoP, Nkunda said, which may prove problematic for both the norm and the institution moving forward.

Despite these concerns, the Court remains actively involved in Libya. After Saif’s arrest in November 2011, the ICC has been engaged with Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) on the issue of his trial. It had been reported that the Court would allow Libya to try Gaddafi’s son, but as of 25 January 2012, no decision had yet to be made by the ICC.

As of November 2011, the Court remained involved in Libya as it continues to build its case against Saif Gaddafi and Senussi and investigates allegations that all parties to the conflict, including anti-Gaddafi forces, committed war crimes and/or crimes against humanity. The 2 March 2012 report of the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry into Libya, and its handing over of a list to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), Navil Pillay, of suspected perpetrators, could mean continued involvement for the Court moving forward as well.

The Court also played an important role in the response to the post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire between 28 November 2010 and 11 April 2011, during which widespread human rights violations and crimes against humanity were alleged to have been committed.

As the situation in the country intensified in March and April 2011, the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC warned on 6 April that an investigation could be triggered as a result of reports of widespread and systematic killings. On 4 October 2011, in the aftermath of hostilities, the ICC exercised its jurisdiction in the country and authorized an investigation into allegations of such violations committed by all parties to the conflict.

Months after his arrest on 11 April 2011, on 30 November 2011 former President Laurent Gbagbo was transferred to the Court – the first head of state to be in the custody of the ICC – and will stand trial for his in alleged involvement in crimes against humanity over the course of the civil conflict. It was also announced on 22 February 2012 that the Court would expand the scope of its investigation into the country to the 2002-2010 period.

According to Kegoro, while the initial involvement of the Court in Côte d’Ivoire (and Libya as well) was both appropriate and justifiable – in that it had an immediate effect of publicly championing an end to impunity and the promotion of the rule of law – the true impact of the ICC is at a, “fledgling state”.

Assessing how the ICC intervention has affected the prevention of further atrocities and regional stability and the peace will require on-going monitoring and evaluation, both during ICC trial processes and after the decisions,” Kegoro said. While he noted that prosecution of perpetrators of the most serious crimes can have a deterrent impact, “the societal implications of ICC interventions and decisions is something that will only be shaped and understood over time.”

Kegoro concluded by adding that, “The long-term impact of the ICC, especially on African nations, is something that needs to be carefully assessed,” particularly in the wake of the Court’s involvement and the implementation of RtoP in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire.

Peace vs. Justice?

As the ICC was involved in Libya during the conflict, but formally announced its investigation into the situation in Côte d’Ivoire only after hostilities had ceased, debate has arisen over the timeliness of the employment of the ICC as a tool to respond to mass atrocities under the RtoP framework. The debate also touches on a more general discussion of whether justice for victims of atrocity crimes can be pursued while attempting to secure a peaceful resolution to a conflict or vice versa. This is more commonly known as the peace vs. justice debate.

Both Jabati and Pace were unequivocal in stating that there can be no peace in any situation without justice for crimes committed. This idea spurred Jabati’s COJA, along with a number of other civil society organization’s present at the Kampala Review Conference, to push for the ability of the ICC’s Chief Prosecutor to prioritize conflict prevention in Africa through extensive outreach programs, highlighting the importance placed on justice in the pursuit of peace in cost-conflict settings, and in the prevention of violence altogether.

Pace argues against the premise that pursuing peace and accountability for international crimes at the same time doesn’t work, and says that there has been, “no peace strategy that has worked worse” than giving major combatant leaders amnesty and transferring them to a third country with personal and financial security. Instead, the WFM-IGP Executive Director stated that while each individual situation must be evaluated independently, the recent-year examples of Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, the DRC, and Colombia, “make the case that in many conflict situations introducing international criminal justice actually helps achieve and fortify peace.”

But, drawing on the specific example of Kenya, where the ICC opened an investigation on 31 March 2010 and is currently in the process of trying four individuals it has found responsible for the 2007-2008 post-election violence, Kegoro says that the country’s experience points to the fact that the “most practicable time for ICC intervention is in post-conflict situations.

However, according to Kegoro, this was a result of the fact that Kenya had only exhibited its unwillingness to prosecute perpetrators of violence well after it had subsided; thus the ICC had little role to play during the crisis. Therefore, he states that, “there may be a set of circumstances in the future where direct ICC intervention during an armed conflict is appropriate, or even required.”

Also drawing on recent examples, Nkunda sees both positives and negatives of the Court’s involvement during armed hostilities. With the Lubanga case, Nkunda notes that the Court’s engagement during the conflict in the DRC did have a positive impact on limiting crimes, specifically in raising awareness that the practice of conscripting child soldiers was contrary to international law and that such behaviour to could lead to the docket in the Hague.

In terms of negative implications, the IRRI Co-Director points to Sudan as a glaring example, where, “the unintended but expected consequences of the Court’s decision was the expulsion of humanitarian organizations [16 aid agencies operating in Darfur were expelled in early March 2009], which heavily impacted the lives of the very people – the victims – whom the Court was trying to protect.” Furthermore, in singling out individuals as direct perpetrators of the violence, as the ICC did with the indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and others in the context of the crisis in Darfur, Nkunda notes that the actions of the Court may have served to insulate one group to become, “more deadly, since they have nothing to lose.”

Our members’ insight, drawn from their experience working in the fields of international law and conflict prevention in unique national and regional contexts, shows that much depends on the complexities of the situation at hand, but that justice should certainly not come at the expense of peace.

Deterrence and the Need for Prevention

Jabati, Kegoro, Nkunda and Pace all touted the deterrent effect of the ICC on would-be violators of Rome Statute provisions, both in conflict and post-conflict settings. At times, however, the ICC itself may not be enough to halt ongoing mass atrocities in specific cases. In both Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, a wider array of measures became necessary to protect populations, including the use of force.

The present Syrian crisis, which has claimed as many as 8,000 lives since March 2011, continues unabated as the civilians remain victim to gross human rights violations at the hands of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.  Regional and international actors must uphold their Responsibility to Protect the population of Syria by employing additional measures to effectively end the continued “collective punishment”.

In addition to a range of measures to respond to the crisis, the ICC has emerged as a potential tool to respond to the crisis through the RtoP framework. Calls have been made on a number of occasions by UNHCHR Pillay, as well as by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé, and civil society organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, for the Security Council to refer Syria to the ICC. To date, however, there have been no such moves to ensure justice for the victims of the crackdown through the ICC, and the killing has largely continued unabated.

Only when tangible steps are taken to prevent genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing from occurring altogether will this cycle of atrocity and reaction be broken.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put forth two such preventive measures in his January 2009 report, Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, by urging Member States to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and to implement national legislation against atrocity crimes.

As the report reads, “The Rome Statute seeks to develop mechanisms and processes for identifying, investigating and prosecuting those most directly responsible for crimes and violations relating to the responsibility to protectI would encourage additional States to become parties to the Statute and thus to strengthen one of the key instruments relating to the responsibility to protect.”

But the Secretary-General noted that becoming a Party to the Rome Statute, along with other relevant instruments of international law, is just the first step in the full of the responsibility to protect. Consistent with the emphasis on the primary responsibilities of states by both the RtoP and the ICC, the Secretary-General’s report states that, “these core international standards need to be faithfully embodied in international legislation,” so that impunity for any of the four RtoP crimes is not accepted nationally or globally.

Taking these steps may ensure that states meet their primary responsibilities of protecting civilians by criminalizing the four RtoP crimes under both their domestic laws and their international obligations, and may work to realize their prevention altogether.

Please see the links below for the full statements by our members:

Statement by Sulaiman Jabati, Executive Secretary of Citizens for Justice and Accountability (Freetown, Sierra Leone)

Statement made by George Kegoro, Executive Director of the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists (Nairobi, Kenya)

Response by William Pace, Executive Director of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy, Convenor of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), and Co-Founder and Steering Committee Member of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (New York, USA)

Statement by Dismas Nkunda, Co-Director of the International Refugee Rights Initiative (Kampala, Uganda and New York, USA)

Special thanks to George Kegoro, Sulaiman Jabati, Dismas Nkunda, and William Pace. A shorter version of this post was expanded upon for this blog, and will be appearing in the upcoming print edition of World Federalist Movement News.

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in these individual responses prepared by our civil society member organizations do not necessarily reflect the views of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect.

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