The Global Citizen: International Criminal Justice
Ambassador Stephen J. Rapp, U.S. Ambassador for Global Criminal Justice, spoke on July 4th in Delft at "A Grotian Moment: The International Criminal Court, The U.S. and The Hague Tradition."
It’s exciting to hear Ambassador Rapp speaking about the U.S. and the ICC at such an event. I hope this signals good things to come for the relationship between the U.S. and the Court and our country’s continued engagement with the ICC.
Watch Ambassador Rapp's speech below:
Today, the International Criminal Court's (ICC) first trial was completed with the sentencing of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo to fourteen years in prison. Lubanga, of the Democratic Republic of Congo, was found guilty by the Court in March of conscripting child soldiers for use in battle.
This first sentencing is certainly a landmark moment for the ICC. It's good to see the Court complete a trial and ensure that a vicious warlord will be put away, though it's a bit disheartening to see the length of the sentence is shorter than what the ICC Prosecutor had recommended. The prosecution had asked for Lubanga to serve 30 years for his crimes. His sentence is further reduced because the six years he's been in custody will count toward his incarceration, so he will only serve an additional eight years (with the possibility of getting out even sooner due to good behavior).
With all that said, I'm still happy to see some measure of justice done in today's sentencing of Lubanga. I'm proud to see the ICC reach this milestone moment, and I hope this sentence brings some measure of peace to Lubanga's victims and their families. I look forward to a future in which the Court succeeds in putting many other war criminals behind bars where they belong.
For those of us who are passionate about international justice, yesterday marked an extraordinary milestone. The International Criminal Court (ICC), the world's first permanent international court, celebrated its 10th anniversary. However, its roots go back much further than a mere decade.
The ICC traces its heritage in part back to the Nuremberg trials after World War Two, in which the U.S. played a leading role. Nazi war criminals were put on trial and brought to justice for horrific crimes against humanity committed during the war, and the international community vowed "never again" to allow such atrocities to happen on its watch. Tragically, this promise remained unfulfilled as the 20th century continued to witness genocides in places as diverse as Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and Sudan. The need for a permanent international body to bring war criminals to justice remained glaring.
In 1998, representatives from around the world met in Rome, Italy to firm up plans for such an international court. The result was the Rome Statute and the creation of the ICC. The Court officially came into being on July 1, 2002.
The Rio+20 summit, intended to develop a global sustainable development agenda, concluded last week. In the words of author Gwynne Dyer, "rarely has such a large elephant laboured so long to give birth to such a small mouse." 150 world leaders were unwilling and incapable of creating substantive reforms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because of a lack of political will and competing economic interests. The United Nations, the G-8, G-20, and other major multinational conferences suffer from many of the same ills. This begs the question, what is the alternative?
Nonetheless, the past few months were busy for the world's major international institutions. The International Criminal Court, which is about to celebrate its tenth anniversary, convicted Thomas Lubanga in March marking a major milestone for the international justice community. However, others have not been so successful. The United Nations is struggling to resolve the fifteen-month long crisis in Syria that has killed more than 10,000 people. The most recent G-20 summit also recently concluded in Mexico producing piecemeal economic recovery efforts and meaningless statements about violence in Syria.
Today, Fatou Bensouda was sworn in as the new Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), replacing the Court's first Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Bensouda is the first woman and African to hold this position.
Bensouda, who is from Gambia, previously served as ICC Deputy Prosecutor, working closely with Ocampo, so it seems the first Prosecutor-to-Prosecutor transfer of power in the Court's history should go smoothly. Her experience is impressive, and additionally, the fact that she is an African woman will likely help to blunt the perception on the part of some critics that the ICC is targeting Africa unfairly in its investigations.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to hear Prosecutor Bensouda speak at an event at the Assembly of States Parties meeting last December. She made compelling reference to the need for the Court to focus its attention on gender-based violence and bring perpetrators of these crimes to justice. I was impressed by Bensouda, and I look forward to seeing what her next steps as Prosecutor will be as the Court nears its milestone 10th anniversary in July.
Congratulations, Prosecutor Bensouda! And thank you to former Prosecutor Ocampo for all of your efforts to establish the Court's role in bringing about international justice.
Four staffers of the International Criminal Court (ICC) were detained in Libya over the weekend after meeting with Saif Gaddafi, son of the deposed dictator, who has been indicted by the Court. An ICC team is currently working to secure their release.
ICC President Song has called for the release of the staffers, noting that "These four international civil servants have immunity when on an official ICC mission."
Australian ICC lawyer Melinda Taylor was found carrying documents for Gaddafi that were considered "suspicious" by the Libyan authorities. She and her fellow ICC staff were put under house arrest in the town of Zintan and have been ordered to be held in detention for 45 days.
This latest drama comes as the ICC and Libya remain engaged in a broader tug-of-war over where the younger Gaddafi should be tried. The Libya situation was referred to the ICC last spring by the U.N. Security Council, and the ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Gaddafi. The new Libyan government has expressed a strong desire to try Gaddafi in the country, but it is unclear that they have a sufficient judicial system set up to ensure a fair trial.
We will keep you updated as more news becomes available.
If you're like me, there's nothing quite as much fun as making a list. And listing "winners and losers" on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis is something of a D.C. tradition. So I'm going to start a regular blog series on "Heroes and Zeros" around the globe-commending those leaders, governments, or ordinary people who did something great that positively impacts the global issues that Globalsolutions.org cares about, and calling out those whose actions have hurt the cause of creating a better world.
Here's the first edition-and feel free to let me know what you think and provide feedback!
Hero of the Week: The Nation of Malawi
As someone who follows the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC) closely, I feel that all too often I'm writing about how some new nation has flouted ICC arrest warrants by inviting a convicted war criminal for a visit. But happily, this week indicates the tide may be starting to turn on this loathsome practice, as illustrated by Malawi's refusal to host Sudanese president--and ICC indictee--Omar al-Bashir. Malawi was scheduled to hold an African Union summit, but got into a dispute with the AU because it refused to allow Bashir to attend. Despite protests from the AU, Malawi held firm to its no-Bashir stance, and the summit was moved to another country.
Today, hundreds gathered in Freetown, Sierra Leone to watch the sentencing of Charles Taylor, the former head of state of Liberia responsible for widespread terror amongst civilians by aiding the rebels in Sierra Leone. Taylor was found guilty of all 11 charges of War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity, and International Humanitarian Laws on April 26th in The Hague, Netherlands. As his 50 year prison sentence was administered concluding the almost four-year-long trial, many victims of the terror in Sierra Leone were relieved to know Taylor will be locked up. The trial of Charles Taylor is not simply a victory for the international court systems and those victimized by the rebels aided by Taylor, it is a message to the rest of the world that the international justice system is prepared to hold all parties responsible for breaches of human rights.
Taylor will serve his sentence in a British prison for aiding and abetting vast crimes against humanity by rebel forces in Sierra Leone and his personal profiting from the "blood diamonds". The judgment and sentencing through The Special Court for Sierra Leone is a monumental step in the international court system as a former head of state has not been convicted for war crimes since the Nuremberg Trials in 1945.
Today, ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced he would seek new charges against Bosco Ntaganda of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Ntaganda was already charged by the ICC in 2006 for the use of child soldiers in battle. Prosecutor Ocampo is now seeking to add charges of crimes against humanity for murder, ethnic persecution, rape and sexual slavery, as well as war crimes charges for "intentional attacks" against civilians leading to murder, rape, sexual slavery and pillaging. These alleged crimes were committed in the DRC between 2002-2003.
Lubanga also asked for an arrest warrant against the DRC's Sylvestre Mudacumura, who he said has "launched a campaign of attacks against the civilian populations in the Kivus." He is charged with charged with five counts of crimes against humanity: murder, inhumane acts, rape, torture and persecution, and nine counts of war crimes: attack against a civilian population, murder or willful killing, mutilation, cruel treatment, rape, torture, destruction of property, pillaging and outrage upon personal dignity.
Speaking about Ntaganda, who is known as "The Terminator" and currently on the run, Lubanga states that,
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the last trial of a major figure for the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Taylor was convicted of aiding rebels in the Revolutionary United Front in neighboring Sierra Leone in exchange for blood diamonds, but was found innocent of having direct control over forces.
It is a landmark victory, as it is the first conviction of a former national leader for grave crimes since Karl Doenitz, who briefly ruled Nazi Germany after Hitler, was convicted at Nuremberg. This verdict lays the groundwork for holding fair trials of other heads of state accused of atrocities, such as Sudan's Omar Al-Bashir and Syria's Bashar Al-Assad.
As international law has developed over time, there has been a dramatic increase in the world community’s acceptance of the prosecution of tyrannical leaders. From the U.N.’s request for an investigation into the Libyan conflict to Syrian protesters calling for Assad to stand trial at the International Criminal Court, it is encouraging that international courts are now regarded as a major tool to end the impunity of war criminals and to provide justice for their victims.
Taylor will be sentenced on May 30th to prison in Great Britain.
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