The Death of ‘Brother No. 2’, the Impact of the Death of an Appellant and the Risks of Justice Delayed

On the 4th August 2019, one of the former senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge, Nuon Chea, passed away at the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital. The third to die of five individuals accused of international crimes by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), his death raises important questions about the implications of the death of an appellant, as well as drawing attention to the threat of justice delayed becoming justice denied for victims of mass atrocities.

Nuon Chea, or ‘Brother No. 2’, was second in command after Pol Pot in leading the Khmer Rouge, a regime which held power in Cambodia from 1975-1979. Nuon Chea was considered a significant ideological driver of the regime, and one of those primarily responsible for the forcible restructuring of Cambodia in pursuit of an agrarian revolution.  These policies led to the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people, through starvation, disease and overwork, as well as through the deliberate execution of anyone considered a threat to the regime.

The regime was followed by continued conflict, a period of amnesties and a policy of ‘burying the past‘ for many years. However, after several further years of negotiations between the UN and the Royal Government of Cambodia, an agreement was reached enabling the creation of the ECCC, established in 2006 to prosecute crimes perpetrated by senior leaders and those most responsible for crimes perpetrated during the regime.

Nuon Chea was arrested on 19 September 2007. Alongside Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith and Khieu Samphan, he faced charges of crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and genocide. The case, known as Case 002, had been called “the most important case in the international legal history since Nuremberg” as it indicted all the four surviving senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea.

Given the complexity of the trial, and concerns over the advanced age of the defendants, this trial was split into a series of sub-trials, and the first judgment was delivered on 7 August 2014, nearly forty years after the Khmer Rouge came to power. By this point, the number of defendants had already been halved, following the death of Ieng Sary in 2013 and the staying of proceedings against Ieng Thirith as a result of her degenerative mental health.  The remaining defendants received convictions and life sentences for crimes against humanity relating to forced transfers and the killing of the former regime’s soldiers.  On 23 November 2016, the Supreme Court Chamber quashed part of the convictions but affirmed their life imprisonment. 

The Case 002/02 judgment, significantly broader in scope, was delivered on 16 November 2018, convicting Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, a range of crimes against humanity (notably including the regulation of marriage), and the genocide of the ethnic-Vietnamese and (in the case of Nuon Chea) the Cham Islamic minority group.

This conviction was praised by commentators for its significance for the victims of the regime and for international criminal law more generally. However, both defendants appealed the conviction on multiple grounds, raising important questions with regards to whether Nuon Chea’s appeal can continue and the status of his conviction if it cannot.

The Court may find that without an appellant, the appeal cannot continue.  Such an approach would be in keeping with that of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, where the Appeal Chamber in the Delic case found that as there was no appellant, no appeal could be made, and the trial judgment would therefore stand.

However, the ECCC Internal Rules specify that ‘The convicted person or, after his or her death, the spouse, children, parents, or any person alive at the time of the person’s death who has been given express written instructions from the convicted person to bring such a claim…may apply to the Chamber to revise the final judgment” on certain limited grounds, relating to the discovery of new evidence or serious misconduct on the part of a judge. While relatively narrow, this may suggest that at the ECCC, the death of an accused does not preclude the continuance of an appeal.

Domestic case law is also varied on this point, and it could be argued that allowing the appeal to continue would constitute a valuable way of protecting the rights of a defendant to clear his name, enhancing the legitimacy of the judgment, and potentially facilitating the ‘truth-telling’ goals of the tribunal by allowing findings to be tested further. These latter arguments are particularly pertinent given the wide-ranging grounds of appeal submitted by his defence team, some of which challenge the impartiality and legitimacy of the Trial Chamber itself, and which differ significantly from those put forward by Khieu Samphan’s team.

If the appeal does not continue, then the status of Nuon Chea’s conviction is unclear. Under Article 35 new of the Law on the ECCC, the accused shall be presumed innocent as long as the court has not given its definitive judgment. If the trial judgment is considered the definitive judgment, then Nuon Chea’s conviction may stand. However, if the definitive judgment is considered the final appeal judgment, then it may be that the trial judgment is unable to be considered legally sound, meaning Nuon Chea may be presumed innocent until/unless his appeal is heard. In such a scenario, the ECCC’s legal recognition of the genocide perpetrated against the Cham community, and the role of Nuon Chea in a range of additional mass atrocities, would lose its legal force.

Regardless of the outcome, the death of Nuon Chea prior to his appeal being completed draws attention to the risks for the rights of both defendants and victims in delaying the delivery of justice. The ECCC has continued to be subjected to sustained critiques for the time it had taken to complete its cases, resulting in many victims, as well as defendants, dying before judgments were delivered. During my research into the perspectives held about the Court amongst survivors of the regime, the issue of expediency and a wish for closure was raised time and again. I was repeatedly asked when the Court would finish its work, and attention was drawn to the advanced ages of the accused. The depletion of the number of defendants was often attributed to the Court’s slow progress, and many respondents voiced their frustration at having had to wait so long, and their fear that the other defendants would also die, meaning that the Court ‘will have been a failure’. Such views are natural given the several decades that have passed since the Khmer Rouge inflicted years of hardship and suffering on Cambodian society, and highlight the profound importance of delivering timely responses to mass atrocity. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rule of Law Backsliding and a Rapidly Closing Space for the Justice System in Guatemala

© Wikimedia Commons

The rule of law has rapidly continued to backslide in Guatemala since my last post on ILAC’s report on the Guatemalan judiciary and our call for support to the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). I had originally planned to discuss in this post how the current situation in Guatemala reflects the challenges and opportunities for promoting justice globally in the context of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. But, with such significant rule of law backsliding, the more pressing question is if it is possible to push back against this rapidly closing space for the justice system in Guatemala without CICIG?

Rule of law backsliding

In 2018, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court ruled against President Morales’s attempts to bar CICIG’s Commissioner from reentering the country, and since the beginning of the new year President Morales has retaliated against the Guatemalan justice system.

On January 7, President Morales declared that he was unilaterally and immediately terminating the agreement establishing CICIG even though its mandate does not expire until September. He also demanded that all CICIG officials leave the country within 24 hours. In his declaration he stated that CICIG had severely violated national and international laws and that it put the security, public order, governance, human rights, and above all the sovereignty of Guatemala at risk. This type of authoritarian overreaching to attack and dismantle the rule of law follows the pattern of authoritarian trends globally, as evidenced by V-Dem Institute’s 2018 Annual Democracy Report.

Two days after President Morales’s declaration, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court ruled that his unilateral decision was unconstitutional. This was a step forward for the rule of law in Guatemala and it appeared that the justice system was pushing back against a closing space. Nevertheless, this positive momentum was short lived. Later that same day, Guatemala’s Supreme Court accepted a request from Congress to begin impeachment hearings against three Constitutional Court magistrates and to lift their immunity. The magistrates subject to that request are those who have consistently ruled in favor of CICIG. The impeachment proceedings are currently pending before Congress, and the ultimate decision on whether to lift the magistrates’ immunity and possibly remove them from the bench now lies with a Congress which is heavily aligned with President Morales.

In addition to President Morales’s unconstitutional unilateral decision to terminate CICIG’s mandate, another recent alarming indicator of rule of law backsliding is that Guatemala’s Congress is considering an amendment to its National Reconciliation Law which would grant amnesty to those convicted of serious human rights violations within 24 hours of the amendment’s ratification. This would result in the freeing of more than 30 convicts, most of whom are former military officers, and end any ongoing or future trials for crimes which occurred during Guatemala’s 30-year internal conflict.

Rule of law without CICIG?

CICIG, as a hybrid of international experts and authorities working with national criminal investigative institutions, has provided a mechanism for “accomplished and courageous leaders and prosecutors to emerge” in Guatemala’s attorney general’s office. The result was the prosecution of high-level government officials, including former presidents, ministers, and army officers, the breakup of over 60 criminal networks and 310 related convictions, fighting corruption throughout the judiciary and government, and strengthening the rule of law through programs, projects, and legislation. It is estimated that CICIG has contributed to a net reduction of more than 4,500 homicides from 2007 to 2017. CICIG thus brought Guatemala closer to achieving the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG 16) of the United Nations 2030 Agenda by: significantly reducing all forms of violence and related death rates (Target 16.1); promoting the rule of law at the national level and ensuring equal access to justice for all (Target 16.3); significantly reducing illicit financial and arms flows, strengthening the recovery and return of stolen assets, and combating all forms of organized crime (Target 16.4); and substantially reducing corruption and bribery (Target 16.5).

In ILAC’s recent report on the Guatemalan judiciary, we recommended to the government of Guatemala that in order to guarantee the rule of law for all persons (relating to SDG 16, Target 16.3) it must: support the independence of justice operators, including ensuring adequate resources are made available to the justice sector to ensure that it can perform its vital function, and guaranteeing the safety of justice operators, in particular judges in jurisdictions such as the High Risk Courts; confirm state support for the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary; and ensure that the state complies with court judgements and provides adequate resources for the enforcement of judgements, such as those by the Constitutional Court.

The continuance of Guatemala’s rule of law achievements and the support and oversight for implementing our recommendations, however, relied on CICIG’s existence.

Pushing back

Given the significant rule of law backsliding, is it possible to push back against the rapidly closing space for the justice system in Guatemala? First, it is important to note that Guatemala will hold presidential and congressional elections this summer. The elections, if conducted in a free and fair way, could bring about significant change to the current political climate. And, although the international community could not prevent an abrupt end to CICIG’s mandate, there is resistance to the closing space on the national level. Guatemalans have openly protested against the rule of law backsliding, and just last week Guatemala’s Attorney General opened an investigation into first lady Patricia Marroquin de Morales’s alleged cashing of unreported campaign checks made out to President Morales during his election bid.

This push back by civil society and justice sector actors on the national level against the closing space is hopefully a signal that the change brought about by CICIG’s work will have a lasting effect on the Guatemalan justice system. The international networks of judges, lawyers, and human rights organizations must support and encourage civil society and legal professionals in Guatemala and raise awareness of the dangers of the current rule of law backsliding. With such support, Guatemala’s civil society and the justice system’s actors and institutions can hopefully withstand the executive and legislature’s attacks on the rule of law.

ILAC was established in 2002, to facilitate cooperation by international and regional actors involved in rebuilding justice systems and the rule of law in conflict-affected countries. In 2017, ILAC selected a delegation of experts from candidates put forward by its 50+ member organisations to carry out an assessment of the justice sector in Guatemala. The delegation traveled to Guatemala in October 2017, meeting with over 150 Guatemalans, including judges, prosecutors, lawyers, human rights defenders and business leaders. Follow the latest ILAC news at www.ilacnet.org and on Twitter @ILAC_Rebuild.

The ICC and Côte d’Ivoire: Is Justice Being Dispatched?

In December 2010, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, then Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), warned protagonists of the post-election crisis in Côte d’Ivoire that “[t]hose leaders who are planning violence will end up in The Hague.” In November 2011, Laurent Gbagbo arrived in The Hague, his transfer to the ICC seen as diffusing tensions after his arrest in April by forces loyal to the internationally recognized winner Alassane Ouattara. Gbagbo was joined by his Minister of Youth, Charles Blé Goudé, in 2014. Having fled to Ghana, Blé Goudé was extradited to Côte d’Ivoire, which sent him to the ICC. At the time, Côte d’Ivoire was not party to the Rome Statute but the country accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction through an Article 12 (3) declaration, reconfirmed in 2010.

Yet, by the time the trial commenced in January 2016, the Ivorian justice system was functioning. Ouattara declared no more Ivorians would be sent to the ICC, insisting on trying Simone Gbagbo at home despite losing an admissibility challenge before the Pre-Trial Chamber, upheld by the Appeals Chamber.

The acquittal of Laurent Gbagbo and Blé Goudé in the ruling on no case to answer of 15 January 2019 spotlights the OTP’s investigation in the Côte d’Ivoire situation. As a written decision is forthcoming, this article will not examine the trial. Rather, it looks at the perception of the ICC at the local level and how it compares to and impacts national justice processes. 

During my research in Côte d’Ivoire, I had the privilege to interview Ivorians from different parts of the country, including victims, witnesses, judges, prosecutors, defense counsel and civil society. Views about the ICC and domestic accountability efforts are polarized. Some strongly support the ICC and maintain high expectations that may now be impossible to meet, while others are adamant Ivorians should be tried by Ivorians, however imperfect the justice.

For many, the ICC has lost credibility. Those who followed the Gbagbo and Blé Goudé trial share concerns as to how it was conducted, from procedural changes, to the OTP’s witnesses turning hostile, suffering memory loss or providing hearsay evidence with low probative weight. Further, the OTP’s sequenced approach­––necessary for securing state co-operation given the limitations of the Part 9 regime––with as yet no public arrest warrants released against supporters of Ouattara who are also suspected of committing crimes during the crisis, has increased the perception of the Court as an instrument for victor’s justice. This credibility deficit has weakened its impact. Early positive developments included domestication of the Rome Statute, with the incorporation of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide into the Ivorian Penal Code in 2015. However, as public perception decreased, related reforms important for local accountability efforts stalled, in particular, a law on witness protection; fortunately, it was passed by the National Assembly in early 2018 but is still to enter into force.

Unfortunately, there has been inadequate reverse co-operation, with requests to the ICC for the exchange of evidence to facilitate domestic investigations substantively unanswered. Further, Côte d’Ivoire lacks technical capacity for DNA and ballistics analysis, with resource limitations among the factors delaying further exhumations. While the OTP has lent some assistance, it would be mutually beneficial to go further. Domestic inquiries are also hampered by witness fatigue, with some witnesses reluctant to co-operate with a Special Investigation Unit (CSEI) after already giving testimony to the ICC and other domestic transitional justice mechanisms previously operating in parallel, including the National Commission of Inquiry (CNE), Commission for Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation (CDVR), and National Commission for Reconciliation and Reparation of Victims (CONARIV). Other ICC witnesses declined to testify in local trials to avoid media exposure.

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Redressing an oppressive past which seeps into the present – a meeting with Andrea Durbach

 Who is Andrea Durbach?andrea durbach-3

Andrea Durbach’s career has been deeply entangled with access to justice. Currently a professor at UNSW Law in Australia, Andrea, born and brought up as a white, middle class woman in apartheid South Africa, was introduced to the legal profession working as a human rights lawyer opposing the apartheid regime, often representing student organisations and labour unions. Although she witnessed law being used simultaneously as an instrument of oppression and discrimination by the apartheid state, she expresses her choice of study as one inspired by the idea of law being used in the pursuit of justice. The possibility to ‘hold the law up against the state’ – or using the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house – was appealing to her as a young lawyer.

In one of her most famous cases from the end of the 1980s, she acted as the solicitor to 25 black defendants (who became known as the ‘Upington 25’) who were facing the death penalty, accused of killing a black policeman under the notoriously used common purpose doctrine. The trial was gruelling, both inside and outside the courthouse. Shortly after 14 of her clients were sentenced to death, her barrister in the case, her colleague and friend Anton Lubowski, was assassinated by state agents – which she describes as symbolising ‘the lengths people would go to in order to silence and terrify opponents of the state’. Andrea subsequently depicted her experiences of the case in the book, Upington. The story of the Upington 25 was also made into a documentary film, A Common Purpose, directed by Mitzi Goldman which won the Audience Award at the 2011 Sydney Film Festival.

 The trial took its toll on Andrea’s personal and professional life and she took time out with family in Australia in 1989, where she eventually stayed. Since then, she has, among other things, worked in a major Sydney law firm, directed a litigation and policy centre, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) (1991–2004), worked as an academic and Director of the Australian Human Rights Centre at UNSW Law and was appointed Deputy Sex Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission (2011–2012). Throughout her career, she has been instrumental in establishing mechanisms that facilitate access to justice, such as the Public Interest Law Clearing House (which matched pro bono lawyers in private practice with public interest litigation and NGOs), a proposal for a Stolen Generations Reparations Tribunal to address the injustices caused by the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, and more recently, she has been part of a major research project which considers the capacity of courts and tribunals to implement ‘transformative’ reparations to combat gender violence post-conflict. In recognition of her extensive human rights contribution, Andrea was awarded the Australian Human Rights Commission Human Rights Law Award in 2013.

On 30 October, Andrea delivered the 2018 John Barry Memorial Lecture at the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, entitled ‘Keeping justice at bay: institutional harms and the damaging cycle of reparative failure’. When I meet her, remedies, reconciliation and reparations are our main conversation themes. Perhaps this is due to the enduring demands on states to provide reparations for historical injustices that persist in the present, evident in ongoing discussions in Australia concerning public responsibility for the past oppression and the continuing marginalisation of Indigenous communities.

What remedies?

Holding states to account for abusing the human rights of individuals and communities has been a key driver of much of Andrea’s work. Remedies in the broad sense can be described as the provisions of measures directed at righting a wrong. They are often referred to in a collective sense, sometimes in the context of national reconciliation efforts and transitional justice settings – such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa – addressing past wrongs and harms with a view to transition and transformation into a fairer social order. Apart from this social meaning, remedies and reparations also have an individual dimension, with a right to remedy for persons whose rights have been violated. In the United Nations Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, remedial modalities are taxonomised as restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition.

Remedies are not, however, limited to legal, judicial, or even state-centred settings. Andrea emphasises alternative forms of reparation and healing for individuals and communities – using the example of the earlier mentioned documentary film concerning the Upington 25 court case:

The film, in a way, is a reparation, because it enabled my clients to tell their experiences outside of the confines of the court case, without the strictures of what is permitted as evidence and what is not. This allowed for an opportunity to tell their story in a neutral setting, to have it validated via a different process [documentary], rather than trying to persuade a judge who was so much part of the apartheid infrastructure and an agent of the state. So it was a journey, a reparative journey, for many of them … and for their children to see what they had done and how they had been treated. And for the world, the South African nation, a democracy, to see them as people who had contributed to that democracy, rather than as accused numbers 1 to 25 … having to answer allegations against them which in the majority of cases had been fabricated.

What is important when designing and implementing transformative reparations?

Rather than being merely backward-looking, simply aiming to restore things as they were, the objective underlying transformative reparations is that the structural conditions that enabled historic violations which often maintain post-conflict, require transformation to prevent the recurrence of harm. As Andrea highlights, ‘[political] transition is […] meaningless unless there is transformation’. Symbolic reparations such as apologies, she says, cannot make a ‘difference unless they are met with deep, structural shifts – meaningful measures of justice – in how we respond to the needs of different communities’. In recognising the need for such structural shifts if reparations are to be transformative, Andrea highlights the contextual embeddedness of harms ‘that continue to manifest post-conflict’ which demands comprehensive understanding of the broad needs of beneficiaries – material, therapeutic – in order to determine appropriate remedies.

Having insights into both South African and Australian reconciliation efforts, Andrea highlights shortcomings in both. The South African transitional justice process was one that required a ‘wholesale’ reconstruction and redistribution of ‘the economy’ and ‘the whole political infrastructure’. The post-apartheid South African Constitution advocates transformation, with its preamble recognising past injustices with the aim to ‘heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights’. In Australia, on the other hand, Andrea speaks of ‘more contained but no less significant or transformative’ measures, such as permanently guaranteeing political participation and inclusion of the voices of Indigenous peoples, as proposed in the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart. Such transformative changes, however, are yet to be made.

There have been compensation schemes, there has been a national apology, there has been a walk across the [Sydney harbour] bridge. The problem with all of those [measures] is that they do not address … the structural transformation that is needed. You can have all these payment schemes and bits of money coming here and there, but [their value is limited] if you do not change the structure of the policies and the political system to accommodate the call for political recognition [as per the Uluru Statement from the Heart] and to meet the needs with comprehensive, enduring measures of real justice.

‘Truth-telling and treaty making’, Andrea emphasises, are ‘very structural, foundational validations of a nation. Of our First Nations’.

Can we compare different reparative and reconciliation processes? What are the limitations and benefits of comparison?

Remedial debates – with reference to transitional justice contexts, state mistreatment of minorities or other forms of abuse – have intensified in many countries during the last decades. But is it possible to draw parallels between and compare reconciliation processes that might emerge from different historical, social and cultural contexts? What do efforts to redress injustices such as institutionalised racism, systematic gender violence, or abusive health care practices – to name but a few –have in common? In responding, Andrea embraces what she refers to as ‘the dual approach’, in other words, to both critique and to ‘extract the value’ of other reparations processes. ‘What I think has worked’, she says, ‘is being able to analyse and critique these various models and then shape some of the useful measures that come out of them’ in a way appropriate to ‘local traditions and needs and local politics. Just supplanting approaches never works’.

Addressing structural gender violence – another form of transitional justice?

Discussing her more recent work on violence against women and sexual assault in Australia, words like ‘reconciliation’ and ‘remedies’ take on a different tone. Gender violence – particularly sexual violence against women and girls – is ‘endemic to almost all political conflicts’ and to all struggles around social, economic and cultural power. Awareness of the pervasive nature of gender violence has been raised through global movements like #Metoo which seek transformative ways to redesign society and rethink power distribution. Answering the question about what lessons can be learned from transitional justice processes in addressing gender violence debates, Andrea highlights the importance of ‘the inclusivity of voices, but also managing the expectations of those we hope will benefit from the process’. Including victim/survivors in not only the process but in its design ‘from the start’, is critical. But so is validation and follow-up by responsible individuals and institutions. ‘You cannot really expect people to come and give testimony, to open themselves up, and expose the harm and then not meet that in a respectful and just manner’, she says. Just leaving people ‘suspended [following their testimony] is a very damaging process and leads to cycles of reparative failure with long-term public health and social consequences’.

‘Last resort:’ A final course of action, used only when all else has failed (Oxford Dictionary).

The Seventeenth Assembly of States Parties (ASP) has closed and one key takeaway is the need to have realistic expectations with respect to the role and capacity of the International Criminal Court (ICC) or ‘Court.’ This theme was woven into numerous side-events, especially those concerning complementarity and universal jurisdiction. 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute. While the ICC continues to grow in its reach and impact, the institution has inherent and purposeful limitations. A fair assessment of the Court needs to be couched in terms of its intended scope, purpose, and place in the global landscape, which is highly specific. 

At the side-event “Justice, peace and security in Africa: deepening the role of the ICC,” hosted by the Coalition for the International Criminal Court and the African Network on International Criminal Justice, Phakiso Mochochoko (Office of the Prosecutor [OTP]) emphasized that the first question should never be, “Why isn’t the ICC doing something?” Such questions can and should be asked of the state and its institutions first. The ICC was never intended to be a first-responder or a sole responder.[1]The trigger mechanism for the Court’s involvement relies on the unwillingness or inability of the concerned state to investigate and prosecute those most responsible for atrocious crimes. This requires a lack of political will, a lack of capacity, or both. The scope is intentionally and inherently limited. Several side-events at the ASP reiterated that the ICC is one judicial mechanism for accountability, and one of last resort.[2]Scholars and practitioners need to focus on states, which have a primary obligation to investigate and prosecute these crimes in the interest of peace and security.

To this end, at the side-event “Complementarity and Cooperation Revisited: What role for the ICC in supporting national and hybrid investigations and prosecutions?” hosted by Luxembourg, North Korea, and Open Society Justice Initiative, Pascal Turlan (OTP) highlighted the importance of capacity building. Capacity building refers to both the legal framework and training of personnel in domestic institutions. Pascal sketched a coordinated relationship between the ICC and national mechanisms under the auspice of ‘positive complementarity.’ The ICC is willing to engage in cooperation measures such as information sharing or to engage in mutual assistance strategies in an effort to encourage national authorities to develop cases, or to assist in the investigation or prosecution of cases.[3]As noted above, if the ICC can prosecute, they can only do so against persons who bear the greatest responsibility for the alleged crimes. It would be up to national institutions to investigate and prosecute all others responsible and hold them criminally accountable. Theoretically, positive complementarity is highly useful in this regard and it should contribute to the proliferation of accountability and justice. 

Similarly, at the event titled “Commemorating the 20thanniversary of the Rome Statute,” H.E. Kimberly Prost expressed that complementarity should involve domestic, regional, and extra-territorial jurisdictions to battle impunity. She explained that this may require innovative solutions, such as those like the new court in Central African Republic and the IIIM in Syria, for example. Judge Prost said that productive dialogue cannot begin and end with a critique of the Court. Since no state can credibly oppose justice, alternative solutions need to be pursued. The capacity of states needs to be built so that the ICC becomes redundant, as intended by the drafters of the Rome Statute. Judge Prost’s contributions reflect a ‘back to basics’ approach. Complementarity is the bedrock of the Rome Statute System but is often neglected. This subjects the ICC to criticism and claims that it is not doing enough. States should look inward first to find ways to investigate and prosecute, either independently or with cooperative assistance and support from the ICC and/or other institutional mechanisms and/or organizations.  

Similar views were expressed by Karim Kham, Alain Werner and Carmen Cheung at the side-event “Closing the impunity gap: a pragmatic approach to universal jurisdiction.” Each one of these panelists explained that extra-territorial/judicial mechanisms, ad hoc tribunals, or other similar mechanisms are not mutually exclusive with the ICC. Karim said that it is important to reiterate that the ICC does not have a monopoly on justice. He explained that the goal is to close the impunity gap by whichever way(s) possible because justice is not politicized, it is ‘everybody’s business.’ 

The ICC plays an important role in the global landscape, but as pointed out by the intervention of Elise Keppler of Human Rights Watch at the side-event, “From Bemba to Rombhot: Reflections & Perspectives for the ICC in the Central African Republic,” the ‘one case, one suspect’ approach is likely insufficient for dealing with the broader realities of conflict. It is posed here that an ideal complementary schema might have national courts investigate and prosecute foot soldiers, a special/hybrid tribunal address mid-level officers and commanders, and the ICC deal with those most responsible for organizing and orchestrating the crime(s). This would be comprehensive and provide a greater possibility for accountability at all levels and sides of the conflict. Although social justice and legal justice are not the same, greater accountability and a strengthening of the rule of law at the local level can contribute to a (more) stable post-conflict environment. 

A holistic approach to justice will demand more than the ICC can provide. The Court is limited in its monetary and human resources, as well as its jurisdiction and scope. This is not to say that it has no utility or value. Rather, a more nuanced approach to complementarity can present important opportunities for justice and accountability by capacity building, strengthening domestic legal systems, and closing impunity gaps. This is an important step towards the goal of universal jurisdiction for atrocious crime. Framing critiques of the ICC within the principle of complementarity and universal jurisdiction can change the conversation in some significant and important ways. The ICC cannot do everything, nor is it supposed to. The potential role for complementary mechanisms to the ICC may be the best way to move the conversation (and the international criminal justice project) forward.   

This blogpost and my attendance at the 17thAssembly of States Parties are supported by the Canadian Partnership for International Justice and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


[1]The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, A/CONF.183/9 (17 July 1998): Preamble, Article 17, “The case is being investigated or prosecuted by a State which has jurisdiction over it, unless the State is unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution.”  

[2]This was a strong focus at the December 5 side-event, “Commemorating the 20thanniversary of the Rome Statute,” co-hosted by the Netherlands, Uganda, and Africa Legal Aid. This was a focus of H.E Kimberly Prost.

[3]There are limitations to this, for example the ICC will not share information if the alleged suspect could receive the death penalty, or if basic rule-of-law principles such as a right to a fair trial are not firmly established in the domestic context.

ICC Assembly of States Parties 2018: Final Day

 

ASP

[photo credit: @NLatICC via Twitter]

The final day of the ICC Assembly of States Parties was marked by highs and lows.

In positive news, Assembly attendees learned that Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona had been arrested by French authorities pursuant to an arrest warrant issued by Pre-Trial Chamber II on December 7. The warrant alleges that Ngaïssona bears criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the western part of the Central African Republic (CAR) between at least December 5, 2013 and at least December 2014. The Chamber was satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an internal armed conflict was ongoing in the CAR between the Seleka – a coalition of armed groups predominantly composed of Muslim fighters – and the Anti-Balaka – a predominantly Christian countermovement to the Seleka. The Chamber also found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that, from at least September 2013 until at least December 2014, a widespread and systematic attack was carried out by the Anti-Balaka against the Muslim civilian population and anyone perceived to support the Seleka. Ngaïssona was the most senior leader and the National General Coordinator of the Anti-Balaka.

In less positive news, the Assembly approved the 2019 budget of the ICC at €148,135,100. This represents a very small increase over 2018 of .49%. The Committee on Budget and Finance (CBF) had recommended a .6% increase, and therefore the approved budget is lower than the CBF recommendation by €150,000. For those inside and outside of the Court who felt that the CBF recommendation should represent a floor, this further cut was worrisome. The Court had requested a 2.4% increase. In real terms, this .49% increase does not keep pace with inflation, is a de facto budget decrease, and severely limits the number of preliminary examinations, situations and cases the Prosecutor can pursue on an annual basis. Ten states – Argentina, Belgium, Costa Rica, Finland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland – issued a strong statement of disappointment with the annual Assembly budgetary process as continually leading to the underfunding of key ICC roles.

States Parties also adopted the Omnibus resolution, which states:

“The Assembly of States Parties reconfirms its unwavering support for the Court as an independent and impartial judicial institution, reiterates its commitment to uphold and defend the principles and values enshrined in the Rome Statute and to preserve its integrity undeterred by any threats against the Court, its officials and those cooperating with it, and renews its resolve to stand united against impunity.”

States Parties additionally adopted the Report of the Credentials Committee and the Report on the 17th session of the Assembly. The dates of the 2019 ASP have not yet been decided, but the date and venue should be announced by January 31, 2019.

Today, Catherine Savard returns to blogging for the IntLawGrrls symposium, having also participated in 2017. Her three-part blog post focuses on the ICC Prosecutor’s preliminary examinations.

Catherine is Assistant Coordinator with the Canadian Partnership for International Justice and member of the Canada Research Chair on International Criminal Justice and Human Rights. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in international law at Université Laval (Canada) under the supervision of Prof. Fannie Lafontaine. Her research interests are international criminal, humanitarian and humanCatherine rights law. She recently represented her university at the Jean-Pictet international humanitarian law competition and will represent it again in 2019 the context of the Charles-Rousseau public international law competition. She has also been very involved with the Université Laval’s International Criminal and Humanitarian Law Clinic, for which she has completed nearly 10 research mandates. Her research focusses on modes of liability in international criminal law, sexual and gender-based violence and cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

A heartfelt welcome back, Catherine!

ICC Assembly of States Parties 2018: Day Six

FIDH

[photo credit: FIDH. This image graces the cover of FIDH’s recently-released report, Victims at the Center of Justice: Reflections on the Promises and the Reality of Victim Participation at the ICC (1998-2018)]

Day Six of the ICC Assembly of States Parties began with a two hour plenary discussion titled “Achievements and challenges regarding victims’ participation and legal representation after 20 years of the adoption of the Rome Statute” organized by Argentina and the United Kingdom as co-facilitators. States Parties, Court officials and civil society representatives were invited to share their views on questions such as: at what stages may victims participate, which victims may participate, what does participation mean in practice, and how does legal representation work? Themes emerging from this discussion included the ethical and legal obligations owed to victims, ensuring that victims do not feel used by the ICC, calls for the re-establishment of a focal point for victims, and the streamlining of the ICC’s victim participation process. A number of side events on victim-related issues were also held today, summarized here by the Coalition for the ICC.

Following the plenary discussion, States Parties adopted three resolutions. One resolution addressed the amendment of Rule 26 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence – which addresses the receipt of misconduct complaints against ICC judges, the Prosecutor, Deputy Prosecutor, Registrar or Deputy Registrar – to make the Rule fit better with the mandate of the Independent Oversight Mechanism. The other resolutions focused on cooperation and remuneration of the judges. States Parties also discussed the budget, and introduced a draft resolution on the budget in the afternoon. States Parties additionally considered a draft of the omnibus resolution in the afternoon.

I extend a heartfelt welcome to Marie Prigent, who joins the IntLawGrrls symposium with a post on the Assembly, which she is attending with the Canadian Partnership for International Justice.

Marie holds a Master’s degree of International and Comparative Law from Toulouse 1 Capitole University in France. She studied international law abroad, at the Complutense University of Madrid and Université Laval in Quebec. She then joined Université Laval’sPHOTO CV International Criminal and Humanitarian Law Clinic in January 2018 and continues her work as a research intern. Her researches focused on transitional justice, amnesty laws, victims’ participation and rights of human rights defenders. Her fields of interest include criminal, humanitarian and human rights law. She will prepare for the Quebec bar exam from January 2019.