Posts Tagged Africa

Dangers Ahead For International Justice – A Very Brief Reaction to David Bosco’s Post

David Bosco is raising the alarm on his excellent blog The Multilateralist over at Foreign Policy on some potentially very bad news for the international criminal justice project, regarding the ICC’s difficulties in Africa and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s delicate mission in an explosive-as-ever Lebanon.

The post is not very long, so it is difficult for me to quote excerpts without quoting the entire thing (which would not be appropriate without the author’s approval), so I can only strongly suggest you read it.

I do not have time for a detailed response, so I will have to content myself with two quick observations:

Regarding an engineered African withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the threat is undeniably there, and I do not doubt the credibility of the reports David Bosco mentions. However, things are a little more complex than what they appear, as Africa is a) not a homogeneous block – some African States are very pro-ICC, others a bit less, a few outright anti-; b) some African States do have an interest in having the ICC intervening in their country, and c) I was surprised while reading the statements given by delegations at the latest Assembly of States Parties at how conciliatory and even positively low-profile the African States’ declarations were. You’d think for a continent plotting to leave the Rome Statute in a coup, they would raise the issues bothering them in a louder fashion than what they did last month.

I sincerely doubt anything would happen before the Prosecutorial elections next year. The African group has a strong chance of having elected an African Prosecutor for the ICC, and I simply do not see them forfeiting that chance.

Regarding the situation in Lebanon, it is particularly delicate and one I have been meaning to write on for quite a while, and probably will as soon as I have a little more time on my hands (I still have a pile of reports on Lebanon to go through first). But it seems clear that the difficulties at the heart of the peace versus justice debate have never been so discernible and clear-cut than it is there. This is a situation to monitor and think about, for both sides.

Hopefully, I will have time to write more about each situation soon.

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Some Quick Thoughts About Africa, the Crime of Terrorism and the Rome Statute

As readers may know, I have been paying particular attention to the African Union’s attempt to put together a comprehensive counter-terrorism treaty, and have already posted some thoughts on the matter on the al-Wasat blog a few days before Christmas.

A few more thoughts occurred to me today as I was reading (for my current employer) the statements given by delegations to the Ninth Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court, which took place last month in New York. I still have a handful to go through, but so far the delegation from Nigeria’s statement (PDF file) has particularly caught my attention.

From the third paragraph of the statement, I quote and emphasize:

One significant contribution of our common efforts in developing an international criminal justice under the Rome Statute is the strengthening of the international community, acting in concert, to check the activities of armed non-state actors. As we all know, these are usually armed groups that operate outside state control or authority, often constituting threats to corporate existence of their victim states through operational styles marked by horrendous acts of impunity.

I was intrigued by the mention of ‘armed non-state actors’, also known as non-State armed groups. Of course, that term means many things. In fact, it is fairly self-explanatory: any armed group that is not under the direct control of a State is, logically, a non-State armed group.

But as I read that I subconsciously understood “terrorist groups” and that has brought me back to what I wrote last month. Read the rest of this entry »

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Shedding Light on Tensions Between the African Union and the ICC

The current tensions between the African Union and the International Criminal Court are often the object of international criminal lawyers’ discussions, and are particularly seized upon by skeptics and critics of the Court. For the Court and its supporters however, it has also been the subject of much reflection and concern, and this up to the highest levels (see ICC President Song’s opening remarks at the ICC-NGO biannual meetings a few weeks ago). Tensions and frustrations are flaring, and there seems to be no end to the standoff between the UN Security Council and the ICC on one side, and the African Union and Sudan on the other.

In the midst of these frictions that clearly threaten the ICC’s credibility in Africa, the Institute for Security Studies published last week an excellent Position Paper titled “An African expert study on the African Union concerns about article 16 of the Rome Statute of the ICC”, written by three African international law experts, namely Dapo Akande, Max du Plessis and Charles Chernor Jalloh.

As the title very clearly suggests, the authors give a very detailed analysis of the African Union’s position towards article 16 of the Rome Statute, in particular as it relates to the current tensions arising from the ICC’s involvement in Darfur.

Before giving some of my personal thoughts on the study’s findings, I first have to say that this report is brilliant and enlightening. It takes a very clear and rigorous approach to the raised questions on the role article 16 has to play, and makes the case for the African Union’s position without falling into the usual anti-West postcolonial political rhetoric that I find too often pollutes the debate and makes the real legal case inaudible. Although some would say there’s nothing new in the study for anyone who has followed AU-ICC relations closely, I still find that it puts a fresh perspective and offers a coherent analysis that puts the difference pieces of the puzzle in order.

I would recommend the reading of this report to anyone interested in understanding the state of ICC-AU relations, and more specifically, the legal aspects of the AU’s position towards the ICC.

I won’t summarize and go over the entire report, but briefly mention three main ideas that I think structure the paper and that particularly shed light on the ongoing conflict: Read the rest of this entry »

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A Rapid Follow-Up to the al-Bashir in Kenya Saga

So al-Bashir did not go to Kenya today. Instead, the IGAD summit that was initially supposed to take place in Nairobi will take place instead at a date still to be determined in Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, which is not a State Party to the Rome Statute and therefore is not bound to execute the arrest warrants. At the insistence of the United States, Security Council Resolution 1593, which referred the situation of Darfur to the International Criminal Court, makes that very clear at paragraph 2 (emphasis is mine):

2. Decides that the Government of Sudan and all other parties to the conflict in Darfur, shall cooperate fully with and provide any necessary assistance to the Court and the Prosecutor pursuant to this resolution and, while recognizing that States not party to the Rome Statute have no obligation under the Statute, urges all States and concerned regional and other international organizations to cooperate fully;

Kenya did respond to Pre-Trial Chamber I’s request (see my previous post) by merely stating that there was no plan for the Sudanese President to come, which was, once the summit was moved to Ethiopia, true.

There’s not much to say here, and perhaps the saga ends here. The Pre-Trial Chamber’s “warning shot” probably did, despite (former) Kenyan Foreign Minister Wetangula’s claims, dissuade Kenya from holding the summit and receiving Bashir.

I did particularly enjoy Mr. Wetangula’s arguments in that article, not only claiming that Kenya did not push for the summit to be held in Ethiopia because of the ICC Judges’ request (to be fair, only the Kenyan authorities know for certain, but that’s very unlikely), but also said some pretty ludicrous things, such as “We have no demands from the ICC and we are not the arresting agents of the ICC so that is not an issue” (oh, really? Just imagine what people like Moses Wetangula would say if ICC investigators conducted an arrest à la Eichmann), and “ICC does not have a hold on Kenya, we are a signatory to a treaty establishing it so we cannot live under fear over a treaty that we are just a party to” (to be honest, I’m not really sure what that means).

As for the “former” in front of Foreign Minister, Mr. Wetangula resigned last Wednesday over allegations of corruption.

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Is France “At War” With Terrorism?

French Soldier under the Eiffel Tower, Photo AFP/FRED DUFOUR

For the past 10 days or so, there’s been a flutter of activity regarding France and the Islamic terrorist threat – in particular Al-Qaeda au Maghreb Islamique (AQMI). The French intelligence and counterterrorism services have been particularly wary, even nervous, regarding risks of a terrorist strike on French soil. According to Reuters, French authorities are currently investigating and attempting to prevent a supposed kamikaze attack on the transportation system by a suspected female terrorist. Jewish synagogues and other religious sites have been under increased surveillance by security forces, especially during Yom Kippour. Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, perceived as a “moderate” by both his supporters and his detractors, is under police protection.

Last week, the Eiffel Tower and the metro station Saint-Michel, the same that was the object of a terrorist attack in July 1995 killing 8 and wounding over a hundred, were evacuated following an anonymous tip.

All this following an interview of Bernard Squarcini, the head of the French counterterrorist agency – the DCRI (Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur) – in the Journal du Dimanche on the eve of 11 September, claiming that the terrorist threat against France has never been greater. Jean-Louis Bruguière, one of the most famous and mediatized former anti-terrorist magistrates, stated on France 24 that the level of threat was similar to that of 1995, with the difference that today AQMI exists, which was not the case 15 years ago. Needless to say, AQMI’s recent apparition in Algeria and expanding in the entire Sahel is not a positive factor for France’s security.

Talk about nervousness. And yet, on the Home Front, the French are taking all of this with a surprisingly British phlegm.

However, to make things worse, seven employees of the French company specialized in nuclear energy Areva and construction firm Vinci have been kidnapped from their homes in Niger last Wednesday, five of them being French, the two others being from Madagascar and Togo. AQMI is suspected of being behind the attack. The French government has reacted swiftly and firmly to the kidnappings, immediately arranging to deploy 80 troops in Niger along with several aircrafts, and set up a temporary base there to search and rescue the hostages. Read the rest of this entry »

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The “Peace versus Justice” Debate: Views From the Darfurian Refugee Camps

I apologize for not having posted anything in what appears to be way too long, even though from my perspective it feels as if it was just yesterday. I have been busy here and there, with work, The Hague, and finishing my LLM dissertation. Now that most of that is behind me, I can get back to this blog, and boy, there’s been plenty to talk about these past few weeks: the UN Mapping Report regarding crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the 1990s, a delicate political situation in Sudan, and some worrisome news from the front lines of the global struggle against terrorism. And let’s not forget the Pope’s visit to the UK, and the temptation by a certain number of people to put him on trial for crimes against humanity.

I will write on some, if not all, of these issues in the following days (again, forgive me for my lateness in reacting to these events), but I want to start off with a post on a NGO project called Darfurian Voices that I came across a few weeks ago. Read the rest of this entry »

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I’m inviting Bashir to the next family picnic.

There’s been a media firestorm in response to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s trip Friday to attend the promulgation of Kenya’s new constitution, despite the ICC warrant for his arrest (see Xavier’s post below). A quick response:

In a press release, Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Africa Deputy Programme Director, said, “It is disturbing that the Kenyan government is celebrating a new constitution – the national centrepiece of the rule of law – while obstructing justice for victims of such serious human rights violations in a neighbouring country.” Apparently the whole ‘neighbor’ part is being used by the Kenyan government to defend al-Bashir’s attendance: Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula stated, “[al-Bashir] was here today because we invited all neighbors and he is a neighbor.” Well, thanks, Mr Wetangula, for that priceless bit of social precedent. Next time I have a barbecue, I’ll be sure to invite the serial killer down the block, even though I promised my friends that I wouldn’t associate with him.

I don’t know where Wetangula is finding these gems, but he keeps them coming: “[Bashir] is a state guest. You do not harm or embarrass your guest.” Yes, Mr Wetangula, it seems the only thing Kenya is embarrassing lately is itself. To be fair, there is some hope for the sanity of select Kenyan government officials. Deputy Defense Minister David Musila stated, “Kenya has brought shame to itself by allowing President Bashir to visit the country. If he is still in the country he should be arrested immediately and handed to the ICC.” Unfortunately, Kenya’s apparent war crimes poster boy is already safe and snug back in Khartoum.

My apologies for the tone of this post. If I sound bitter, that’s because I am.

But do follow me on twitter @cminall.

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What Legal Response To Mass Rape in the Congo?

In October 2007, John Holmes, United Nations Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told the New York Times:

The sexual violence in Congo is the worst in the world. The sheer numbers, the wholesale brutality, the culture of impunity – it’s appalling.

It seems as though not much has changed over the last three years.

Last month, civilians were brutally attacked and raped by armed elements of the Mai-Mai and the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). According to Will F. Cragin, the International Medical Corps’ coordinator for the region, between 200 and 400 men entered the village of Ruvungi and systematically raped more than 150 women. The victims, most of whom were raped by two to six men at a time, were often violated in front of their families.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is understandably outraged by the attacks, and has dispatched Assistant Secretary-General Atul Khare, Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, to the DRC, and has instructed his Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, to take charge of the UN’s response and follow-up to this incident. But will anyone actually be prosecuted for the atrocities? Read the rest of this entry »

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The David Bosco v. Julian Ku Debate on the ICC, and I’m disagreeing with both

The International Criminal Court, photo from the Coalition for the ICC's website

Not that I want to do another blog review so soon, but a recent exchange between Opinio Juris‘ Julian Ku and Foreign Policy The Multilateralist‘s David Bosco on the International Criminal Court has caught my attention. It’s an interesting exchange between someone with a very American and conservative view on the ICC (Julian Ku), and another who’s closer to the center and apparently slightly more favorable – or perhaps “less unfavorable” being a more appropriate expression – to the Court (David Bosco).

You would probably think that I’d take Bosco’s side on this debate, and I wish I were, but – at the risk of not making many friends – I’m going to take neither.

My opposition to Julian Ku is clear, and is one I’m comfortable with. From what I’ve been reading, Julian Ku belongs to the American school of thought that considers the ICC to be a threat to American interests, that the adoption by the Assembly of States Parties at Kampala in June of a definition (PDF) for the Crime of Aggression (Article 5(1)(d) of the Rome Statute – PDF) is a failure for US diplomacy, and that US cooperation with the ICC will lead to nowhere. Read the rest of this entry »

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A First Blog Review

These days, I’m a little overwhelmed with my work at the CICC and my LLM dissertation that is due in two weeks. So instead of giving you a full-fledged entry tonight, I thought of doing a little blog review. I’ve been reading a lot of interesting stuff lately, and for lack of reflecting on an entire issue, I thought I’d share and comment a little on a few posts out there in the blogosphere.

First of all, Alex Lobov’s post at Zeitgeist Politics is an interesting read and sums-up well Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s ordeal in Iran, sentenced to death by stoning, and culminates with a plea against the death penalty in the United States and in the world. Here is an excerpt:

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is a young Iranian woman who was sentenced to death by stoning in Iran, a sentence that sparked an international outcry over  a practice that many see as archaic and barbaric. Since the initial sentence was handed down, the twists and turns in events since then have moved rapidly.

The initial sentence was handed down by a court in Tabriz in May 2006, she was charged with committing adultery (despite the alleged incident occurring after the death of her husband) and was sentenced to 99 lashes, which was carried out. Then, in September she was convicted by another court, the details of which are still rather shaky, of adultery and of being an accomplice in the murder of her husband. But wait, is she being put to death for adultery? Or for murder? Or for both?

I’ve been thinking of using this story to write a post about international law and the death penalty, but I have not had time as of yet. Stay tuned: maybe I’ll find time this weekend.

Secondly, a very interesting story by Colum Lynch in his Foreign Policy Turtle Bay blog about the Tea Party in the United States and their rather “hostile” (something of an understatement) attitude towards the United Nations. Going far beyond the obvious, Colum Lynch tracks back the roots of the American heartland’s hostility to the UN and multilateralism in general, ever since the days of Founding Father George Washington. Read the rest of this entry »

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