Posts Tagged ‘ICC’

New magazine “Global Geneva” puts “Civitas Maxima” in the limelight

March 21, 2017

Global Geneva is a new English language magazine for the international hub that Geneva want to be. In the issue of 15 March 2017. William Thatcher Dowell discusses the work of ‘CIVITAS MAXIMA’A Tiny Swiss Group of Lawyers Takes on War crimes and Crimes Against Humanity“.

The International Criminal Court at the Hague was created in 2002 to hold individuals responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The concept was good, but the international tribunal was almost immediately paralyzed by politics (See article in the latest edition of Global Geneva on justice must be seen to be done). As William Dowell writes, Alain Werner, who created Civitas Maxima in 2012, has a different idea: “represent the victims and fight the cases in domestic courts if need be

Rather than depend exclusively on international tribunals, Werner believes that it is worth shifting the focus to the actual victims of war crimes, and working with them to compile the solid evidence that is needed to enable a prosecution to stand up in any court of law. Once the evidence is there, the cases can be prosecuted in any court that expressly outlaws crimes against humanity. It does not matter if the court is an international tribunal, a specially constituted war crimes court or even an ordinary domestic court.

The name, Civitas Maxima, which translates roughly as “the greater state”, is reference to the legal term in Latin that captures the notion that all civilized societies hold certain values in common.  The implication is that any society, which considers itself civilized, will instinctively condemn international crimes such as crimes against humanity and war crimes. So far, Werner’s group has been investigating well over 10 cases, and at least three have led to actual arrests by national authorities since 2014. That may not seem much, but in fact, it represents a third of the extra-territorial arrests by national states for international crimes in 2014 and 2015. During that period, only eight extra territorial arrests by national authorities took place world-wide. One of Werner’s cases is currently being prosecuted in Switzerland; two are in Belgium. One of the accused, a naturalized American who held Belgian nationality and was arrested in Spain, died while in jail awaiting trial this spring.  This was the first time ever a Western businessman was arrested for the trade of so-called blood diamonds. Werner did this in conjunction with a local Sierra Leone partner, the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL). Most of the current public cases involve militia leaders who were responsible for atrocities during civil wars in Liberia.

Alain Werner as a lawyer is also representing victims of Hissène Habré, who was president of Chad from 1982 until 1990. The Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal, convicted Habré last May on charges of rape, sexual slavery, and slaughtering members of opposing tribes. Werner had been working on the case since 2008, and it was typical of the kind of case that the ICC would have particular difficulty in dealing with, even if it had jurisdiction. …….“One of the major issues in international justice,” Werner says, “is the fact that politics always affects the process. The International Criminal Court tries to create the impression that it is independent, but so far it has been mainly driven by political factors.” The answer to this conundrum, Werner feels, is for more independent organizations with legal expertise similar to that of Civitas Maxima to take the lead in building convincing cases that will stand up in court, and which cannot be ignored. “Organizations that advocate and write reports, like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, are doing a great job,” he says. “But in the end, you badly need independent lawyers and trained investigators who can compile evidence that meets international standards.”

A key requirement, of course, is funding. Werner says, “If you work independently you have to come up with the funds on your own, and in our case that is complicated by the fact that we do not accept funding from governments.”  

[Werner’s own involvement in prosecuting war crimes started with his work for the Special Court for Sierra Leone in 2003, including the trial of the former president of Liberia Charles Taylor…… In 2009, he went to Cambodia to represent victims in the case of the Khmer Rouge who had run the infamous S-21 concentration camp that fed into the “killing fields.”  After that he joined an independent group, the Aegis Trust, which also runs the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda , and which had a small programme focused on helping victims gather evidence.  The initiative ran out of funding after about two years, but by then Werner was already heavily involved in a number of cases involving victims of Charles Taylor’s operations in Liberia.  Werner decided that he couldn’t abandon the work, and so he created Civitas Maxima]

Werner is also collecting evidence from victims of Ivory Coast’s current president, Alassane Ouattara, whose forces are accused of committing atrocities during the post-electoral violence of 2010 and 2011. His predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, is the first head of state to be tried for war crimes at the ICC for atrocities committed during the same period by his own forces.  With both current and past president accused of war crimes, Ivory Coast is a particularly sensitive area…..

We need to grow the concept,” he says. “Will Civitas Maxima continue to be successful, or will another independent take the idea and make it grow? I don’t know, but I am convinced that we really need this innovative approach. In the United States, you have a head of state saying that torture is fine and in the Philippines another one boasting about the fact that he has killed criminals. The climate is getting crazy. We absolutely need more fiercely independent lawyers to use their expertise to counter impunity for mass crimes.

Source: CIVITAS MAXIMA—A Tiny Swiss Group of Lawyers Takes on War crimes and Crimes Against Humanity | Global Geneva

International Women’s Day 2017: honoring, defending and watching women human rights defenders

March 8, 2017

International Women’s Day focuses on many different aspects of the struggle for the human rights of women. I have selected three special actions this year:

(1) a short piece honoring woman who are land rights defenders;

(2) a digital protection tool for women human rights defenders (Cyberwomen);

(3) a documentary film on how rape was made into a international war crime.

[Of course this blog has had many earlier posts on women human rights defenders: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/women-human-rights-defenders/ ] Read the rest of this entry »

African human rights defenders defend the ICC against attacks by their governments

July 6, 2016

Human rights defenders from across Africa clarify misconceptions about the International Criminal Court (ICC) and highlight the need for African governments to support the court in a video released on 6 July 2016 by 21 African and international nongovernmental organizations. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/the-fight-against-impunity-for-international-crimes-in-africa-no-free-pass-for-leaders-say-human-rights-defenders/]

In January 2016, the African Union (AU) gave its Open-Ended Committee of African Ministers on the ICC a mandate to develop a “comprehensive strategy” on the ICC, including considering the withdrawal of African member countries from the court. The committee met in April and agreed on three conditions that needed to be met by the ICC in order for the AU to agree not to call on African countries to withdraw from the court. These include a demand for immunity from ICC prosecution for sitting heads of state and other senior government officials – which is contrary to a fundamental principle of the court.

Human rights defenders from across Africa highlight the need for African governments to support the International Criminal Court in a video by 21 African and international nongovernmental organizations. The video features 12 African activists who raise concerns about AU actions toward the ICC.

It is not clear if the AU will consider any of the open-ended committee’s assessments and recommendations at its upcoming summit in Kigali, Rwanda, from 10 – 18 July.

The reasons why we supported the establishment of a permanent court as Africa have not changed,” says Stella Ndirangu of the International Commission of Jurists-Kenya. “The only thing that has changed is that now leaders are being held to account.”

To say that the ICC is targeting Africa, I think, is a misrepresentation of the situation,” says Angela Mudukuti of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre. “It’s more Africans making use of the court they helped to create.”

Six out of the nine African situations under ICC investigation came about as a result of requests or grants of jurisdictions by African governments – Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Uganda, and the Central African Republic twice. Two other investigations in Africa, the Darfur region of Sudan and Libya, were referred to the court by the United Nations Security Council. In Kenya, the ICC prosecutor received the authorization of an ICC pretrial chamber to open investigations after Kenya repeatedly failed to investigate the 2007-08 post-election violence domestically. In January, the ICC prosecutor opened the court’s first investigation outside Africa, into Georgia, and is conducting several preliminary examinations of situations outside Africa – including in Afghanistan, Colombia, Palestine, and alleged crimes attributed to the armed forces of the United Kingdom deployed in Iraq.

The recommendations from the open-ended committee are the latest development in a backlash against the ICC from some African leaders, which has focused on claims that the ICC is “unfairly targeting Africa.” The backlash first intensified following the ICC’s 2009 arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan for serious crimes committed in Darfur. While blanket immunity for sitting heads of state is available in some domestic jurisdictions, it has never been available before international criminal courts dealing with grave crimes. The AU, in 2015, adopted a protocol to give its continental court authority to prosecute grave crimes, but also, in a controversial provision, grants immunity for sitting heads of states and other senior government officials. That protocol will need 15 ratifications before coming into force, but has yet to be ratified by any country.

The video is endorsed by the following organizations that are part of an informal group that works to promote support for justice for grave crimes in Africa and beyond:

Africa Center for International Law and Accountability (Ghana)
African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (Uganda)
Africa Legal Aid
Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (Sierra Leone)
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (Malawi)
Children Education Society (Tanzania)
Club des Amis du Droit du Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Coalition for the International Criminal Court (Burundi)
Coalition for the International Criminal Court (Global)
DefendDefenders – East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project
Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme
Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (Uganda)
Human Rights Watch
International Commission of Jurists (Kenya)
Kenya Human Rights Commission
Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice
Legal Defense and Assistance Project (Nigeria)
Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court
Réseau Justice Et Développement (Togo)
Southern Africa Litigation Centre
Southern Africa Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (Zambia)

 

Source: AU: Activists Challenge Attacks on ICC | Human Rights Watch

Maina Kiai explains in images how 2013 elections in Kenya aided impunity

May 5, 2015

On 14 April 2015 Inform Action Kenya published this fairly long (1 hour) but informative video: “Kenya: A Guidebook to Impunity”. Human rights defender, Maina Kiai, looks at how the disputed 2013 election was used to protect political icon, President Uhuru Kenyatta, from crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court. The events have left hundreds of thousands of victims without hope of justice and disappointed human rights defenders who took tremendous risks to try and bring the perpetrators to account.

North Korea: the UN report in images

February 20, 2014

There was considerable attention in the media for the new United Nation report that has found that crimes against humanity are occurring in North Korea and calls for an international tribunal to investigate and hold perpetrators to account, but you may have missed the 14-minute video produced by Human Rights Watch on 17 February 2014. The report, by a UN Commission of Inquiry appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2013, recommends that the UN Security Council refer the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights carry out investigations. The three person commission, which was chaired by Australian jurist Michael Kirby, will formally present its findings to the Human Rights Council on or around March 17, 2014. The council will then consider a resolution to act on the commission’s recommendations.

The fight against impunity for international crimes in Africa: No ‘Free Pass’ for leaders say Human Rights Defenders

November 18, 2013

Today, 18 November, a group of 14 Africa-based NGOs came out with a strong statement supporting the ICC which has its annual meeting coming up 20-28 November in the Hague: “African governments should reject special exemptions for sitting officials before the International Criminal Court (ICC)“, African organizations and international organizations with a presence in Africa said in a document released today. The ICC faces important challenges in Africa. In October the African Union said that the trials of Kenya’s president and vice president, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, should be suspended

Read the rest of this entry »

ICC should continue its work in Africa, says Tutu in N.Y.Times

October 14, 2013

While 130 NGOs in Africa and elsewhere call in a joint letter to the African Union not to abandon the International Criminal Court, Bishop Desmond Tutu publishes in the New York Times of 10 October an excellent piece explaining why it is a terrible mistake. Here is it is in full:

 

CAPE TOWN — MEMBERS of the African Union will meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, today to discuss recent calls by some African leaders to withdraw from the International Criminal Court. These calls must be resisted. The continent has suffered the consequences of unaccountable governance for too long to disown the protections offered by the I.C.C. Read the rest of this entry »

Video clip on Internal Criminal Court (ICC)

August 16, 2013

On 29 June 2012 (yes a year ago) AI published a short video on the Internal Criminal Court, which for some reason I had missed, so here is the link to the video which is a simple but clear assessment of 10 years ICC, it’s successes, it’s failures and the challenges it still faces in bringing to justice those accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

You can also visit and explore the new interactive world map and join the campaign:http://demandjusticenow.org/

 

Kenyan Star reports Increasing Threats to Human Rights Defenders

January 16, 2013

There have been increased threats on human rights defenders and journalists in the last 6 months. Kenyan Human Rights Commission (KHRC) Director Atsango Chesoni says among those who have been threatened are Maina Kiai, Hassan Omar, Ndungu Wainaina and Makau Mutua. She says the threats are directed at those who have spoken out on issues such as the ICC and integrity.

via INCREASING THREATS ON HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS AND JOURNALISTS | The Star.

Love it or hate it, the online phenomenon that is KONY 2012 offers valuable lessons to development communicators.

March 16, 2012

The Kony 2012 campaign is not focused on Human Rights Defenders, but this blog has always taken a fierce interest in the link between videos and human rights and that is now the real issue at hand. There have been many views expressed by experts or those who think they are experts, but the reflections by Riona McCormack in her post “Lessons learned from the KONY 2012 campaign” REPSSI website, I find the most complete and forward-looking until now. I will quote her literally:

Never has a video – and certainly not one created by an NGO – generated such heated and conflicting responses, or achieved such global reach. Fast approaching the 100-million-viewer mark, in the week since the campaign’s launch, coverage of “KONY 2012” has infiltrated every major news outlet and online forum, and ignited a storm of commentary among Facebookers and Tweeters of all ages. However, there is a side to this public debate that has been relatively under-explored: and that is the lessons for media and communications professionals, and specifically those of us working in the development sector.

Here are five important lessons that we can draw from this campaign:

1)  Emotion sells:  Empathy, sorrow, joy, anger – these are the things that make us human, and motivate us to act, learn, or care. The KONY2012 campaign provides emotional resonance in abundance, and the success of this approach is evident. If we are honest, many of us probably felt at least a niggling worm of jealousy watching that YouTube counter climb into the millions. How many excellent, worthy causes have we been pushing for years, wishing for a response just like this? We can learn from this, in terms of how we present our work. At the same time, these tactics, familiar from the film industry, have the dangerous potential to become a form of emotional pornography. We must be careful in how we employ this approach, so that we do not compromise our mission, or our ethics, in order to provoke a reaction. An example of a feel-good video that doesn’t ignore the agency of the people involved is Mama Hope’s glorious celebration of connectivity, their “Stop the Pity. Unlock the Potential” Campaign.

2)  Urgency equals action: Another key to the success of the campaign was the inherent sense of urgency woven into it. The video emphasises the “window of opportunity” that will soon close, the terrible suffering of children which must not continue. For the same reason, efforts to fundraise for earthquake relief funds and other sudden disasters or famines are radically more successful than for ongoing issues of malnutrition. How can we use this in our own campaigns? How can we make long-standing issues with no easy answer into a cause of immediate concern? The Girl Effect is one very slick example of how to introduce a sense of urgency into a long-term problem – education for girls.

3)    People want to act (1): Once people care about something, they usually ask “so what can I do?” If there is no answer to this question, your audience may be left more cynical and apathetic than before. The KONY2012 campaign’s infectiously viral success is due to the clear, simple action it provided for ordinary people to take. Whilst the simplistic nature of this action (especially in the context of a highly complex, distant conflict) has been the subject of much of the criticism facing the campaign, there are many cases in which liking, tweeting or forwarding on a message would be a perfectly appropriate action to encourage. There have also been great examples of creative actions that go beyond simply clicking a button – such as the inspired Movember moustache drive. Bear this in mind the next time you create your own campaign: don’t just inform, ask. Let’s transform viewers into activists. We might be surprised by the response.

4)    People want to act (2): … because it’s worth repeating. We need to recognise that however dubious the message or methodology of the campaign, the millions of people who watched the video, forwarded it on, and bought “action packs” from Invisible Children were motivated by a genuine desire to make a difference. Yet how many of us have at one time or another bemoaned the apathy and ignorance of the vast, amorphous “general public”? Is this is an opportunity for all of us as development communicators to recognise that if we are failing to engage the public, perhaps we need to look at ourselves and how we are communicating?

5)     We need debate, not derision: Many supporters of the KONY2012 campaign have said “at least it has started people talking.” And this is certainly true; some truly excellent pieces of investigationanalysissatireand reflection have been published, including a gratifyingly large number of responses from Ugandans. However, much of the debate taking place last week was bitter, simplistic, and divisive – the detractors classifying supporters as ignorant and uninformed, the supporters calling the detractors pompous and cynical. Both ‘sides” in this debate were to blame for the lack of a balanced discussion. If you disagree with aspects of the KONY2012 campaign, alienating those who support it will not change their viewpoint, nor will it encourage them to read more, learn more and engage more critically with complex issues. How can we find a way to transform the desire to be of service, so evident in the KONY2012 campaign, into sustainable, well-thought out actions?

I share her conclusion that we should not do as if there is only one choice: hate or love the campaign: “Rather, we can take from it what is useful – and discard the rest.”

You can contribute to this debate via The Drum Beat Network: http://www.comminit.com/policy-blogs/content/lessons-learned-kony-2012-campaign-0

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