Venezuela’s ex-prosecutor urges ICC to probe Maduro

Venezuela’s former attorney general urged the International Criminal Court on Thursday to launch an investigation into alleged abuses of murder and torture by the leaders of the crisis-hit country.

President “Nicolas Maduro and his government must pay for this, for these crimes against humanity,” said Luisa Ortega, after handing over to the tribunal in The Hague a dossier containing 1,000 pieces of evidence.

Ortega, 59, is a fugitive from Venezuela, having fled the South American country in August after a new loyalist assembly established by Maduro threw her out of office.

Standing in the rain outside the world’s only permanent war crimes court after handing her dossier to the prosecutor’s office, Ortega insisted Maduro and his government “must pay for the hunger, misery and hardship which the people of Venezuela are suffering”.

She alleged police and military officials had killed some 1,767 people in 2015. Last year there were 4,677 such deaths, she says, with 1,846 killed up to June this year.

Her dossier included witness testimony, as well as interviews with experts and doctors, detailing allegations of “murder, torture, imprisonment as well as a systematic and generalised attack on the civilian population,” she said.

Ortega said she had been collecting evidence of such crimes in her job as attorney general since 2015. She also denounced Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, and Justice Minister Nestor Reverol among other senior officials in her deposition.

There had also been more than “17,000 arbitrary detentions and hundreds of cases of torture,” she alleged.

“We have been forced to turn to an international organisation, because there is no justice in Venezuela,” she added.

Ortega was a fierce critic of Maduro from within his regime, and has continued to make allegations against him while in exile.

The Venezuelan government has been sharply criticised amid the political and economic crisis engulfing the country with the United States and EU imposing sanctions.

Venezuela has ratified the Rome Statute underpinning the ICC, which means in theory the chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, does have jurisdiction to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity there.

But since the court opened in 2002, the prosecutor’s office has received about 10,000 requests from individuals, groups or countries to investigate alleged crimes.

This year alone, activists from Mexico, and the Philippines as well as the Palestinian territories have all sought to secure or broaden ICC probes.

There are currently 10 preliminary ICC examinations and 11 full investigations under way. Most existing probes have so far focused on African nations.


Ugandan civil society seeks arrest of visiting al-Bashir

 Ugandan civil society will be approaching the country’s courts to have Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, arrested. Al-Bashir landed in Uganda on Monday.

The Ugandan Coalition for the ICC said civil society group Uganda Victims Foundation had filed an application seeking an arrest warrant for al-Bashir. The application will be heard at the International Crimes Division of the High Court in Kampala on Wednesday afternoon.

Al-Bashir is in Uganda on an official state visit from November 13 to 15.

The Sudanese president has two outstanding arrest warrants issued by the ICC in 2009 and 2010 on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Darfur, Sudan, where it is estimated that around 300 000 people were killed and over two million were forced to leave their homes between 2003 and 2008 during al-Bashir’s counter insurgency campaign.

Because Uganda is a state party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, having signed the treaty on March 17, 1999, and ratified it on June 14, 2002, the country is bound to upholding the commitments set out in the Rome Statute to bring to justice perpetrators of serious crimes, said Coalition for the ICC convenor William Pace in a letter to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

“Inviting an international criminal suspect to Uganda not only undermines the fight against impunity which Uganda has for long championed, but also betrays the concerns and interests of the victims of the most heinous crimes,” said Mohamed Ndifuna, executive director of Human Rights Network Uganda and president of the Uganda Coalition for the International Criminal Court.

South African predicament

“We therefore call upon the government of Uganda to fulfil its obligations under international and domestic laws by arresting and surrendering President Omar al-Bashir should he be found on Ugandan territory.”

Several civil organisations urged President Museveni to call for the arrest of al-Bashir who visited the country in May 2016 to attend Museveni’s inauguration.

“Despite the clear obligations to cooperate with the court, Uganda did not arrest Omar al-Bashir and surrender him to the ICC to face trial,” said the Uganda Coalition for the ICC in a statement.

The South African government was in a similar predicament after it failed to arrest al-Bashir and later ignored an order by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria preventing al-Bashir from leaving the country after attending an African Union summit in Johannesburg in June 2015.

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) later dismissed the State’s appeal against a High Court ruling that government’s failure to arrest al-Bashir was inconsistent with its constitutional duties.

The SCA said that the South African government was obligated to cooperate with the ICC in arresting al-Bashir.

Earlier this year, in the wake of the controversy over the al-Bashir matter, the South African government stated its intent to withdraw from the Rome Statute.

However, later, in March this year, the government backed down on that idea following a ruling by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria in February which stipulated that a withdrawal would be unconstitutional and invalid and needed to be decided on by Parliament.

SOURCE: News24


Court Dismisses Arrest Case Against Al-Bashir in Uganda

The International Crimes Division of the High Court in Kampala has dismissed an application by a local activist group to arrest visiting Sudan president Omar al-Bashir.

Yesterday (Wednesday), Justice Moses Mukiibi also the head of the ICD court declined to order for the arrest of Bashir on grounds that it was unnecessary.

“Uganda is awaiting sanctions by the UN security council for failing to arrest President Bashir in May last year. Therefore, it is unnecessary to issue an immediate arrest warrant against president Bashir,” Mukiibi ruled.  Bashir left Uganda on Tuesday.

Last year, ICC referred Uganda to the UN Security Council to take measures against it over failure to arrest Bashir during his visit in the country.

Bashir had come to Uganda to attend the swearing in ceremony of President Yoweri Museveni.

Uganda and a number of African states including South Africa have declined to arrest Bashir. They argue that the court is only targeting countries in Africa.

Bashir was indicted by the ICC in 2009 but has since denied the charges.

Bashir is wanted by ICC on suspicion of masterminding atrocities including genocide in the breakaway Darfur region of western Sudan between 2003 and 2008. Thousands of people allegedly lost lives.

Uganda victims Foundation through its lawyer Nicholas Opio wanted the court to issue a standing warrant of arrest against president Bashir.

According to Opio, Uganda as a member of the war crimes court is obliged to carry out ICC arrest warrants.

The case was against the Attorney General and Justice Minister Maj (rtd) Kahinda Otafiire.

They also wanted court to declare that the justice minister and the government acted against the Uganda ‘s will and obligations of the international treaties by failing to arrest Bashir for two times.

However, hearing of the main application did not proceed yesterday because the Attorney General William Byaruhanga had not yet filed his response.

Hearing of the main suit was adjourned to the 12th of December.

Source: The New Vision News



Afghanistan: ICC Prosecutor Requests Judicial Authorisation to Open Investigation…

Would justice prevail or will the Hague be invaded?

The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, has decided to request judicial authorisation to open an investigation into crimes that have been committed during the armed conflict in Afghanistan

Source: dailytimes



Libyan lawyers welcome ICC prosecutor Bensouda’s promise to finally…

The commitment International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda gave to the UN Security Council that in 2018, that she really would be getting on with investigating and prosecuting Libyan war crimes, has been welcomed by Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL).

The organisation, which has been among the frequent international critics of Bensouda and the inability of the ICC to get to grips with prosecutions of Libyan war criminals, praised her determination. It observed that this was the 13th time that Bensouda had spoken to the Security Council about Libya.

“We hope that the prosecutor’s comments will serve as a much-needed reminder to actors involved in the commission of the ongoing atrocities in Libya that the international community is watching and stands ready to take action” said LFJL director El ham Saudi, What is needed now is a concerted effort for collaboration between the ICC, states and civil society to ensure that the ICC has the resources, access and reach to ensure that its mandate reaches the ground”.

Saudi noted Bensouda’s comments to Security Council members on the principle that military commanders had responsibility for the actions of their subordinates and that, under the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court (ICC), they could be held liable for crimes that subordinates committed.

Saudi said the LFJL welcomed Bensouda’s “unequivocal call for greater cooperation from Libya” to ensure the arrest of war crimes suspect Saiqa Special Forces major Mahmoud Al-Warfali.

She said justice was key to achieving sustainable peace: “Accountability for serious crimes and respect for the rule of law must form the cornerstone of the ongoing political dialogue if Libya is to achieve peace, stability and security”.

Source: Libya herald


ICC Gives Go Ahead for Burundi War Crimes Investigation

FILE - The building of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, The Netherlands.

FILE – The building of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, The Netherlands.

The International Criminal Court on Thursday gave prosecutors the go ahead to investigate alleged war crimes committed by the government of Burundi against its political opposition between April 2015 and October 2017.

In a statement, judges said there is “a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation in relation to crimes against humanity.” The war crimes, judges said, include murder, rape and torture that led to the deaths of more than 1,000 people and prompted 400,000 to flee the country.

The decision was handed down on October 25, just two days before Burundi made the decision to withdraw from the criminal court. The decision was kept under seal until Thursday, but the court will still have jurisdiction over crimes committed while Burundi was a member.

Burundi erupted into protests and violence in 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term. Critics said he was defying term limits in the constitution and the agreement that ended Burundi’s civil war.

Soldiers put down a coup attempt while Nkurunziza was out of the country.

Burundi protests executive order

U.S. President Donald Trump recently signed a continuation of a 2015 executive order that declared “a national emergency to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the security in Burundi.”

In an interview this week with VOA’s Central African service, Burundian Foreign Affairs Minister Alain Aime Nyamitwe took issue with the executive order, saying no one in Burundi, including Americans, feels unsafe.

He said Burundi has made tremendous strides from the political chaos that started in May 2015 and that peace and security in all parts of the country have been restored.

“Burundi is now peaceful. The people of Burundi have defeated those who wanted to seize power by force, and the entire country is now peaceful. We are really puzzled when we hear reports that Burundi threatens the security of the region and the security of Americans,” he said.

Nyamitwe also said that the continuation of the 2015 executive order – which the government had objected to from the outset – stems from the fact that the U.S. and some European countries continue to receive wrong information about what is really going on in his country.

“The only thing that may trigger such a decision is the disinformation campaign spread by those who have their own agenda,” he said.

Burundi has called for the refugees who fled in 2015 to return; but, residents of camps in Rwanda and Uganda recently told VOA that killings of perceived government opponents in Burundi continue, and they would not feel safe returning home








Tanzania, Uganda Leaders Criticize ICC Probe of Burundi

FILE - A man begs for help from the military as he stands in a drain where he had hidden to escape a lynch mob at the Cibitoke district of Burundi's capital, Bujumbura. International judges have approved the opening of a full investigation into alleged crimes against humanity in Burundi, where at least 1,200 people have died in unrest since 2015.

FILE – A man begs for help from the military as he stands in a drain where he had hidden to escape a lynch mob at the Cibitoke district of Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura. International judges have approved the opening of a full investigation into alleged crimes against humanity in Burundi, where at least 1,200 people have died in unrest since 2015.

The leaders of Tanzania and Uganda criticized on Saturday a plan by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate alleged human rights abuses in Burundi.

A statement from the office of Tanzanian President John Magufuli said the court’s decision “compromised efforts” of an East African Community (EAC) committee “charged with seeking a resolution to the Burundi conflict.”

The committee is led by Uganda President Yoweri Museveni and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa.

Museveni on Saturday accused the ICC of “interfering in the efforts of the EAC.” He currently heads the EAC, a regional bloc made up of Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

On Friday, Burundi’s government said it would not cooperate with the proposed ICC investigation. The east African nation recently withdrew from the ICC charter, but the court argues the pullout does not affect its jurisdiction over crimes committed earlier.

Speaking to reporters in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, Justice Minister Aimee Laurentine said the ICC has no right to conduct an investigation in her country.

“Burundi, not being a state party to the ICC statute, is not concerned with those so-called decisions of that court,” said Laurentine . “The government of Burundi rejects that decision and reiterates its firm determination that it will not cooperate with the International Criminal Court or any other fraudulent manipulation intending to facilitate extended mandate of the ICC in the territory of Burundi.”

The government response came a day after three judges at the ICC authorized the prosecutor to open an investigation into alleged human rights abuses committed inside and outside Burundi between April 2015 and October 2017.



Burundi became a member of the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC, in 2004. The country announced the plan to withdraw from the statute in October 2016 and the notification took effect last month. Burundi accused the court of targeting African countries.

‘No crime can go unpunished’

Vital Nshimirimana, who heads Burundi’s Forum for Strengthening the Civil Society, said pulling out of the ICC wouldn’t save those behind crimes against civilians.

“Now it’s very well-informed that it cannot escape justice because victims are crying for justice and today no crime can go unpunished in the modern world,” said Nshimirimana.

According to human rights organizations, between April 2015 and May 2017 at least 1,200 people were killed, 900 disappeared forcefully and more than 10,000 people were illegally detained amid Burundi’s political unrest.

Security forces and the ruling party youth wing better known as Imbonerakure have been accused of being behind much of the killings of civilians and political opponents.

Laurentine said her country has the capacity to prosecute those behind the human rights violations.

“Burundi has efficient and able institutions and legal mechanisms to conduct investigations and to take it before justice of any kind of crimes committed in its territory without discrimination, fear or favor,” she said.

Some rights groups, hoowever, doubt that Burundi’s judiciary can give justice to the victims of political violence.



Burundi first country to quit ICC

Burundi is officially the first country to withdraw from the International Criminal Court following a notice a year ago but key rights groups are displeased.

The pullout takes effect Friday, after President Pierre Nkurunziza signed a decree in 2016. Under the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding treaty, withdrawal takes effect a year after notification.

Burundi’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to remove the country from the court’s jurisdiction.

The move was unprecedented in a continent whose leaders often complain that the court disproportionately targets Africans.

But Human Rights Watch issued a statement saying the withdrawal shields agencies from accountability.

“Burundi’s official withdrawal is the latest example of the government’s deplorable efforts to shield those responsible for grave human rights violations from any kind of accountability,” associate director Param-Preet Singh said.

“We urge the ICC to take a progressive approach in interpreting its jurisdiction so victims maintain a viable path to justice.”

In April last year, the court opened a preliminary investigation into Burundi, focusing on killings, imprisonment, torture, rape and other sexual violence, as well as enforced disappearances.

The ICC said political violence had killed about 450 people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee.

Amnesty International said the “cynical ICC withdrawal” will not derail wheels of justice.

“The government has made a cynical attempt to evade justice by taking the unprecedented step of withdrawing from the ICC,” said organisation head Matt Cannock.

Cannock added that perpetrators, including members of the security forces, cannot so easily “shirk their alleged responsibility for crimes” under international law committed since 2015.

“Withdrawal from the Rome Statute does no, in any way, absolve Burundi of its obligations to end ongoing widespread human rights violations, or to address its abject failure to deliver justice for victims at the national level.”

The official noted ICC can continue its preliminary investigations regardless of Burundi’s efforts to stop its work by pulling out.

“Even if Nkurunziza’s government will not cooperate, the ICC has ways and means to investigate and prosecute crimes committed.”

Source:  The Star


Deliberate Famine Should Be a War Crime: UN Expert

Conflicts have proliferated around the world and with them has come a rise in food insecurity. Credit: Reuters

The deliberate starvation of civilians could amount to a war crime and should be prosecuted, said an independent UN human rights expert.

In a new report, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Hilal Elver, examined the right to food in conflict situations and found a grim picture depicting the most severe humanitarian crisis since the UN was established.

“Contrary to popular belief, casualties resulting directly from combat usually make up only a small proportion of deaths in conflict zones, with most individuals, in fact perishing from hunger and disease,” she said.

Conflicts have proliferated around the world and with them has come a rise in food insecurity.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the proportion of undernourished people living in countries in conflict and protracted crises is almost three times higher than that in other developing countries.

In five conflict-stricken countries alone, approximately 20 million are facing famine and starvation.

Another estimated 70 million people in 45 countries currently require emergency food assistance, a 40% increase from 2015.

Since the human right to food is a universal one, Elver noted that countries and other parties to conflicts must act and avoid using food as a weapon of war.


“If the famine [occurs] from deliberate action by state or other players, using food as a weapon of war is an international crime and there is an individual responsibility to that,” she said.

“The international community should make it clear that this is a war crime or a crime against humanity, otherwise we will give a certain permission [to it],” Elver continued.

In Yemen, rates of acute malnutrition have increased dramatically since the beginning of the civil war in 2015, making it the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Approximately 60% of the population are food insecure while seven million are at risk of famine and acute food insecurity, a situation that is expected to worsen without an increase in emergency food assistance.

According to the World Food Programme, over three million children and pregnant or nursing women are acutely malnourished, making them susceptible to communicable diseases such as cholera.

Already, a severe cholera outbreak that began in April has killed over 2,000 people and has exacerbated the nutrition crisis.

Parties to the ongoing conflict have played a significant and deliberate role in the decreased access to food, including a Saudi Arabia-imposed aerial and naval blockade on a country which previously imported 90% of its food.

Air strikes carried out by the coalition have also targeted the country’s agricultural sector including farms, further limiting access to food, while sieges by Houthi fighters in numerous cities have prevented staple items from reaching civilians.

Ta’izz, the Middle Eastern country’s second-largest city, was besieged by Houthi fighters for over a year, causing blockages in supply routes and dire food shortages.

Elver said that Yemen is a “clear situation” where famine constitutes a crime against humanity in which both the Saudi-led coalition and Houthis are responsible.

She noted, however, that there is still widespread impunity in situations when famine is deliberately caused and pointed to the International Criminal Court as an example which has not prosecuted individuals responsible for such crises.

Though UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has included the Saudi-led coalition in his annual shame list for violations against children, Elver called for the creation of legal mandates to prevent famine and protect people’s right to food.

This includes the development of international legal standards to reinforce the norm that deliberate starvation is a war crime or a crime against humanity and the referral of the most serious cases to the ICC for investigation and potential prosecution.

The formal recognition of famine as a crime can prevent the tendency of governments “to hide behind a curtain of natural disasters and state sovereignty to use hunger as a genocidal weapon,” the report states.

“We can see the famine coming, it doesn’t just happen in one day,” Elver said.

Source: The wire


Human Rights Abuses by Army: Presidential Panel Begins Sitting…

The Presidential Investigation Panel instituted to review compliance of the Armed Forces with human rights obligations and rules of engagement on Tuesday began sitting at Ikeja High Court in Lagos. The seven presidential investigation panels were inaugurated by the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Aug. 11 as Acting President.
The panels will be sitting in the six geopolitical zones of the country on various dates from Sept. 11 to Nov. 3 with the Southwest Panel sitting in Lagos from Oct. 23 to Oct. 26. It is to hear at least six petitions of alleged human rights abuses brought against the Armed Forces by various individuals. The panel’s terms of reference are to review extant rules of engagement applicable in the Armed Forces of Nigeria and extent of compliance thereto. Also, it is to investigate alleged acts of violation of international humanitarian and human rights law under the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, Geneva Convention Act, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other relevant laws by the Armed Forces in local conflicts and insurgencies.

It is also to investigate matters of conduct and discipline in the armed forces in local conflicts and insurgencies and recommend means of preventing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in conflict situation. They are also expected to make further recommendations in line with the terms of reference as may be deemed necessary. The eight-man panel headed by Justice Biobele Georgewill of the Court of Appeal include retired Maj.-Gen. Patrick Akem, Mr. Olawale Fapohunda and Prof. Hauwa Ibrahim. Others are Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim, Mrs. Ifeoma Nwakama, Mr. Abba Ibrahim and Mr Adamu Abdulkadir.

Source: Vanguard;