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ICC will Continue to Pursue Preliminary Investigation in Guinea

As part of an on-going ICC preliminary investivation, Fatou Bensouda, Deputy Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), arrived in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, last Wednesday (February 17, 2010).  Upon arrival Bensouda said: "The aim of our visit is to observe what has been done about the painful events of September 28 2009 here in Conakry so that justice should be done to the victims." Bensouda visited the Conakry stadium where national security forces have been accused of killing of more than 150 people at an opposition rally.  A United Nations report said that in addition to the deaths, 1,200 people were injured and hundreds of girls and women were raped. Guinea's military junta reported 63 deaths.

Guinea has been a State Party to the Rome Statute since July 14, 2003. As such, the ICC has jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide possibly committed in the territory of Guinea or by nationals of Guinea. In October 2009, the ICC said the situation in Guinea was under preliminary examination.  In preliminary investigations the Office of the Prosecutor considers whether the alleged crimes fall within the ICC's jurisdiction and whether the facts warrant further involvement.  Beatrice Le Fraper, the Special Adviser to the Prosecutor of the Court, has said that before a full-scale investigation the ICC will examine the nature and gravity of the crimes, the interests of justice in general and whether Guinea is unwilling or unable to try individuals accused of serious violations.  Guinea's prime minister, Jean Marie Dore told reporters that the "judiciary is a problem in Guinea, the way it is organised, the training of the magistrates and some of their behaviour presents problems between the Guinean authorities and their internal and external partners."

Vice President Biden Speaks About Increased Nuclear Budget and Test Ban Treaty

Vice President Biden spoke on February 18 at the National Defense University regarding the budget increase for the National Nuclear Security Administration as well as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.  Increasing the budget for nuclear weapons seems as though the United States is directing policy contradictory to what President Obama had recommended for nuclear non-proliferation.  Yet in this speech, Vice President Biden sought to prove that these budget initiatives were in fact for both non-proliferation and American national security.

Vice President Biden echoed the sentiments of President Obama by showing that the United States can be a leader in non-proliferation while still maintaining a high level of security.  He reiterated this by defining the United States as a leader for a post nuclear world, but to reach this goal we still need a limited nuclear arsenal.  The Vice President explained that nuclear deterrence worked as a Cold War doctrine and retaining an arsenal will further deter our enemies.  Eventually through our leadership, new technologies will evolve bringing a new form of deterrence making nuclear weapons obsolete.

US to Help the ICC Protect Kenyan Witnesses

On February 11, 2010 U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, Stephen Rapp, stated that the United States would assist in protecting witnesses that testify in International Criminal Court (ICC) proceedings.   The ICC is carrying out preliminary examinations into the 2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya. ICC judges are currently in the process of deciding whether Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo can proceed with an investigation into the violence that killed more than 1,000 people and left over 300,000 people displaced. As an ICC State Party, Kenya would be obliged to arrest any citizen indicted by the Court.

According to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights more than 20 witnesses who testified during the 2008 government-led investigation into the violence went into hiding or exile after receiving death threats.  Ambassador Rapp underlined a holistic approach to protecting witnesses: "The reform agenda, in particular in regard to police and the judiciary, [is] critical. Without that, you won't have the confidence of witnesses to come forward."

A further criminal justice issue in Kenya surrounds Felicien Kabuga. Kabuga is a fugitive who owned a Rwandan radio station which urged ethnic Hutu to kill ethnic Tutsi during the Rwandan genocide.  The prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda have said that Kenyan officials have not done enough to assist in capturing him.   Ambassador Rapp told reporters in Nairobi: "I'm here to convey the message that the level of cooperation has to dramatically improve . There is no question that Felicien Kabuga has been in Kenya."

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Check Out "The ICC's Most Wanted"

The presentation highlights the activities of the ICC, specifically focusing upon the individuals who are presently indicted by the court.  The purpose of the interactive presentation is to demonstrate that the ICC is currently active in pursuing war criminals.  The Rome Statute, which is the legislation that created the ICC, defines the types of crimes that individuals can be charged for: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.  Many opponents have claimed that the ICC will target the actions of U.S. soldiers.  With this interactive module, hopes to deflate that notion by demonstrating that the court is taking aggressive measures against individuals who have allegedly committed atrocious crimes throughout the world.

"The ICC's Most Wanted" provides summary information for the individuals who are currently being indicted for the terrible crimes they have committed.  The module also shines spotlights on four regions that have experienced significant turmoil: Sudan, Uganda, Congo, and the Central African Republic.  In each country's section, it describes the details and circumstances for each of the individuals currently being pursued by the court.  The Sudan, for example, describes the crimes committed by Omar al-Bashir, Ahmed Haroun, Bahr Idriss Abu Garda, and Ali Kushayb.

The interactive tool is a great first introduction to the activities of the International Criminal Court.  It is important to emphasize, however, that the nature of the crimes is quite disturbing.  You can explore the module and all it has to offer HERE.

Pre-Trial Chamber Declines to Confirm Charges Against Abu Garda

As the snow descends on Washington DC and the Federal Government enters its third consecutive day closed, events continue to unfold at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, The Netherlands. On Monday, February 8, 2010, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court, composed of three judges, issued a decision declining to confirm the charges in the case of The Prosecutor v. Bahar Idriss Abu Garda.

Abu Garda was charged with violence to life, intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units and vehicles involved in a peacekeeping mission, and pillaging, allegedly committed during an attack carried out on 29 September 2007, against the African Union Mission in Sudan ("AMIS"), a peace-keeping mission stationed in North Darfur. Abu Garda appeared voluntarily in front of the International Criminal Court. The Chamber was not satisfied that therewas sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that Abu Garda could be held criminally responsible either as a direct or as an indirect co-perpetrator for the commission of the crimes with which he was charged by the Prosecution. The Office of the Prosecutor will have an opportunity to repeal the decision.

Want to learn more about the ICC? Look below:

Click Here to tell the United States to reengage with the ICC

Click Here to read more about the ICC case against Abu Garda

No Immunity for National Leaders in the 'Shadow of the Court'

Last night I had the pleasure of participation in a presentation at the Council on Foreign Relations given by Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.  As conveyors' of the Washington Working Group on the ICC we had helped him set up a few meetings on the Hill.  Our Program Coordinator, Abby Long helped out tremendously in this effort.

My friend Mark Goldberg at the UN Dispatch wrote an excellent piece on Ocampo's key points.

I want to emphasize two points that Mark mentioned and one that he didn't:

First, the true relevance of the Court is its global impact. Ocampo said that:

"Even before any ruling in the Lubanga case, the issue of child recruitment gained new momentum, triggered debates in remote countries like Colombia or Sri Lanka and child soldiers were released in Nepal. The Special representative of the UN Secretary-General on children in armed conflicts immediately factored in such potential and used us as a tool to campaign around the world, and secure even more releases." This is an example of how the Court can help to prevent crimes.  While the ICC will only deal with a few cases, its "shadow" extends far beyond them and the 110 nations that are Parties to the Rome Statute.

Second, political leaders sought by the ICC, such as Sudanese President Al-Bashir, are increasingly being shunned by other leaders and nations.  According to Ocampo:

ICC to Reconsider Genocide Charge in Bashir Case

Today (February 3rd 2010) the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court unanimously reversed ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I's decision of March 2009 which excluded the charge of genocide on the arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir.  The decision was based on the grounds that the judges had set the standard of proof too high for the Pre-Trial stage. The Appeals Chamber remanded the decision to the Pre-Trial Chamber to decide, based on the correct standard of proof, whether a warrant of arrest should be extended to cover the crime of genocide.

In 1989 Omar Al-Bashir came to power in a military coup. Throughout his presidency, there have been several violent struggles between the Janjaweed militia and rebel groups such as the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in the form of guerilla warfare in the Darfur region. Since 2003 violent conflict in Darfur has resulted in 2.5 million people reportedly being displaced and death tolls estimated at between 200,000 and 400,000.

Don Kraus, Chief Executive Officer of stated:

"Today's ruling by the International Criminal Court (ICC) judges demonstrates the wheels of international justice at work.  We are now one step closer to holding accused war criminal Omar Al-Bashir in front of the world's premier court for trying perpetrators of mass atrocities. Adding a charge of genocide to Al-Bashir's arrest warrant, would be a first for the ICC and for a sitting head of state. This charge would add to the equally grave charges Al-Bashir faces of Crimes against Humanity and War Crime, including murder, extermination and rape.. President Al-Bashir is still evading arrest, despite the grave charges against him and still presides over a government that is harboring a fugitive from the law.  Each day that Al-Bashir is free from remand is another win for impunity for the world's most egregious crimes."

Update on the ICC's Arrest Warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir

Tomorrow (Wednesday February 3rd) the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will determine whether the standard of proof used by Pre-Trial Chamber I to examine the Prosecutor's evidence on genocide was correct in the case of Sudan's President, Omar al Bashir.

On March 31st, 2005, the United Nations Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the Prosecutor of the ICC. On July 14th, 2008, the prosecution filed an application for an arrest warrant for Bashir.  The prosecution, based on the evidence collected, alleged that three types of crimes had been committed: genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.

On March 4th, 2009, Pre-Trial Chamber I decided that the material provided by the Prosecutor failed to provide reasonable grounds to believe that Bashir had the specific intent to commit genocide. Consequently, the crime of genocide was not included in the warrant issued.  Pre-Trial Chamber I issued an arrest warrant for Bashir on five count of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes, including murder, extermination and rape. Judge Ušacka, one of the three judges, dissented, saying that it is only at the trial phase that it is necessary to present evidence that allows the Court to reach a conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt.  She argued, additionally, that genocide should have been among the charges included.

On July 6th, 2009, the Prosecutor appealed the decision, submitting that, according to article 58 of the Rome Statute, judges are only required to affirm that there is "reasonable evidence" that an individual committed a certain crime for the issuance of an arrest warrant.

Check back on this blog tomorrow for a summary of the decision.

Throughout the proceedings Sudan has refuses to cooperate with the ICC and has stated that it will not hand Bashir over to the Court.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation, 18 Years Later

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was opened for signature in 1968 and entered into force in 1970.  According to the United Nations, the organization responsible for the legislation, "the Treaty represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States."  Five of the states party to the treaty are considered nuclear weapon states: the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China.

However, the United States has been criticized on several occasions for violating the provisions of the treaty when negotiating arms sales with India, a recognized nuclear state that has refused to sign the NPT.  In 2008, President Obama stated that he wished to "strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty so that nations that don't comply will automatically face strong international sanctions."  Additional nuclear states that are noticeably absent from the list of signatures are Israel and Pakistan.  The treaty, set to be assessed every five years, will be reviewed in May of this year.

With regard specifically to negotiations between Russia and the United States regarding US-Russia nuclear relations, one successful treaty is the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT).  The goals of the legislation are to limit the number of warheads each state has within its nuclear arsenal.  The treaty, which expires in 2012, requires semi-annual negotiations of the provisions of the document.