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Is the Rift between Africa and the ICC Deepening? Heads of States Decide Not to Cooperate with ICC on the Bashir Case

Published on July 4, 2009        Author: 

Disclosure: I have acted as consultant to the Commission of the African Union on the question of the relationship between African States and the ICC. Note: This is a long post. If you’re interested in whether Bashir is entitled to immunity under the ICC Statute I try to provide answers at the end.

As I discussed in a previous post (see here) there has been tension between African States and the ICC regarding the indictment of Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir. It is reported (here and here) that the Assembly of the African Union (which meets at the level of Heads of States and Governments), has adopted a resolution calling on all African States not to cooperate with the International Criminal Court on the Bashir case.  In the resolution:

“(The African Union) decides that in view of the fact that a request of the African Union (to defer al Bashir’s indictment) has never been acted upon, the AU member states shall not cooperate persuant to the provisions of Article 98 of the Rome Statute of the ICC relating to immunities for the arrest and surrender of Sudanese President Omar al Bashir to the ICC,”

 This, of course, means that the AU Assembly is calling on States not to take steps to arrest Bashir and not to allow the ICC to conduct investigations on their territory (eg interviewing victims) relating to the Bashir case. The resolution arises out of anger not just at the fact that a sitting head of State has been indicted but because the UN Security Council has failed to take up the African request for deferral of the case under Art. 16 of the Rome Statute. In some ways, the resolution takes a middle position among the range of views that have been taken by African States. Some States have taken a hardline position and would have liked to push for African States to the ICC Statute to withdraw or at least consider withdrawing from the Rome Statute. At the other end of the spectrum, others would have preferred a reiteration of the request for deferral.

There is some confusion in press reports about whether the text of the current resolution was adopted unanimously or not. As I noted in my earlier post, there is significant support for the ICC among African States. It is noteworthy that  this resolution confines its call for non-cooperation solely to the Bashir case.  ICC investigation of the other situations before the ICC continues to have the support of the countries (Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic) where those situations arise from. Also on the same day that the AU adopted this resolution, Kenyan officials met with the ICC Prosecutor (see here and here) and agreed that if the Kenya Parliament is unable to adopt legislation to establish a tribunal to deal with 2007 post election violence in that country, the government would refer the situation to the ICC.

The point that African States are not to be seen as rejecting the ICC as an institution or the Rome Statute as a treaty can also be seen from the fact that the AU has sought to use mechanisms within the Rome Statute in order to halt the Bashir case. First, there was the attempt to use an Art. 16 deferral. Now, this resolution justifies the call for non-cooperation on the basis of Art. 98 dealing with immunity. This leads to the question whether Art. 98 does indeed permit States parties to the Statute to refuse cooperation on the basis of the immunity of a Head of State. Read the rest of this entry…

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Africa and the International Criminal Court

Published on June 8, 2009        Author: 

This week African States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court will meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to assess the work of the ICC in relation to Africa. The meeting is significant as all of the current situations and cases under investigation and being prosecuted by the ICC arise from the African continent. The meeting is convened pursuant to a decision of the Assembly of the African Union (Assembly/AU/Dec. 221 (XII), Feb. 2009). According to that decision, the purpose of the meeting is to:

to exchange views on the work of the ICC in relation to Africa, in particular in the light of the processes initiated against African personalities, and to submit recommendations thereon taking into account all relevant elements.

The decision to convene the meeting arises out of concern and in some cases anger following the request for an arrest warrant for President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan (discussed on this blog here, here, here, here and here)  in relation to the situation in Darfur. The organs of the AU and individual African States have expressed deep concern at that indictment arguing that it will undermine the quest for peace in Darfur. Read the rest of this entry…

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ICC Launches Online Library on International Criminal Law

Published on May 27, 2009        Author: 

The International Criminal Court has recently launched a new version of its Legal Tools site. The site contains an invaluable online library on international criminal law which will probably be  the first port of call for those working in this field. According to the release announcing the launch:

The Legal Tools amount to a knowledge-transfer platform for international criminal and human rights law made freely available to the general public through the website of the ICC. The Legal Tools Database is the most comprehensive on international criminal law. It contains more than 40,000 documents, including decisions and indictments from all international or internationalised criminal tribunals, preparatory works of the ICC, case documents from the ICC, treaties, information about national legal systems, and relevant decisions from national courts. The service also contains a new knowledge-base on national legislation implementing the ICC Statute.

The Legal Tools were designed and developed in the Legal Advisory Section of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor by Morten Bergsmo and his team, while a network of outsourcing partners are collecting and registering the documents, metadata and keywords in the Legal Tools Database: the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (University of Oslo), the Human Rights Law Centre (University of Nottingham), the International Research and Documentation Centre for War Crimes Trials (University of Marburg), the Institute of International Law and International Relations (University of Graz), the T.M.C. Asser Institute, the Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law and TRIAL (Track Impunity Always). The Nottingham Human Rights Law Centre has developed the knowledge-base on implementing legislation. The EEAR (European academy of eJustice) is responsible for technical implementation of the Legal Tools Database and Website.

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The Field of Exception/the Field of Exclusion — Reflections for Martti Koskenniemi

Published on May 25, 2009        Author: 

Editors Note: This post was originally posted on EJIL:Talk! as a comment by Pål Wrange LLM, PhD (Stockholm) in response to last week’s discussion on Prof. Koskenniemi’s article. Mr Wrange, Principal Legal Advisor on public international law at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, is currently on leave of absence and working as a consultant in Kampala

I have engaged with Martti’s work since 1989, when I first read From Apology to Utopia (for example, see my Impartial or Uninvolved? The Anatomy of 20th Century Doctrine on the Law of Neutrality (Visby: Dokumaten.se, 2007) 62-73) . An academic gone practitioner (the opposite career move to Martti’s, I have always felt at home in his texts – the mix of seriousness of purpose and irony of tone, the fealty to old-fashioned Bildung, the shared heritage of continental theory and Anglo-Saxon dominated practice.  His theoretical theses, like indeterminacy, have been addressed by me at quite some length elsewhere ­­- admiringly and critically (in the original sense of that world, of course). Instead of the usual extensive quotes and reverences, let me this time pay tribute to Martti by reflecting, from the floor as it were, on two themes which Martti puts up front in his blog contribution – his criticism of managerialism and, in particular, the fragmentation of international law.

*****

 I presently live in Uganda, and have since 2007 been involved in various aspects of the peace process between the Government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). As many readers of this blog will know, in 2005 the ICC handed down five arrest warrants against Joseph Kony and other commanders of the LRA. These arrest warrants were extremely controversial in this country, partly because they were said to derail the peace process, partly because they did not correspond with many people’s perception of justice, and partly because they were felt to constitute a heavy-handed intervention by ‘global governance’. While I believe that neither of these points is completely wrong, let me also say for the record that I think that the decisions to request and issue the arrest warrants were right (which is not to say that the ICC could not have done things different, and much more sensitively). Be that as it may, the important point in this context is that the ICC has been quite central to the peace debate in Uganda ever since the ‘self-referral’ by the Government to the ICC became public in 2004.

So, there is a peace-process, fledgling for sure, but still holding real prospects for peace. And then there is a threat to this peace-process, in the form of a prosecution by an international body. No one will lay down his arms if that means going to jail. Now, how do you think about this problem? A human rights issue? An international humanitarian law issue? An issue of the recently formed – and now fully established — field of international criminal law? An issue of conflict resolution? An issue of domestic law (criminal law or constitutional law)? Or perhaps an issue of transitional justice?

 It is obvious that the mere choice of field from which to analyse situation does not answer any questions. Read the rest of this entry…

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Some Remarks on the Legal Implications of Foreign Visits by Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir After the ICC Arrest Warrant

Published on May 11, 2009        Author: 

Materneau Chrispin is currently a PhD Candidate in International Law at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland

On March 4, 2009, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an Arrest Warrant against Omar Al Bashir (see here), the current Head of State of Sudan. That warrant was the latest step taken against Al Bashir in the criminal proceedings that have been initiated against him as indirect perpetrator or indirect co-perpetrator of various counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, which fall under ICC jurisdiction.

Al Bashir’s reaction to the issuance of that arrest warrant has been the rejection of such warrant, open mockery and defiance of the ICC. Moreover, Sudanese authorities have also expelled many foreign NGOs providing assistance to the victims of the conflict in Darfur, especially refugees. The move by the ICC has been criticized by many as being untimely and somewhat unhelpful in view of all the political considerations to be taken into account relative to the ongoing conflict in Darfur. Somehow, that controversy falls within the purview of the more general debate on Justice vs. Peace in international law. Nonetheless, the ICC warrant remains a valid act issued by that international tribunal on the basis of the referral of the Darfur situation to the ICC by the United Nations Security Council.

Such a referral was made by UN Security Council Resolution 1593 (2005). It fully gave the ICC jurisdiction over the crimes committed in Darfur. Indeed Article 13 (b) ICC Statute establishes the referral mechanism as the mean for the ICC to exercise its jurisdiction over crimes in a State that is not a party to the Rome Statute, which is the case of Sudan. That article that deals with exercise of jurisdiction by the Court reads as follows:

 A situation in which one or more of such crimes appears to have been committed is referred to the Prosecutor by the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations;

In the light of that referral, how should we assess, as a matter of international law, the behaviour of the States that have not only criticized the warrant, but welcomed President Al Bashir on their territories after the arrest warrant had been issued against him by the ICC?

Any analysis of the issue should start with the Security Council resolution that introduced the case to the ICC. That resolution was adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. It is therefore binding on all member States of the UN per article 25 of that Charter which provides that “[t]he Members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter”. On the basis of article 103 of the same Charter, obligations of Member States flowing from resolutions adopted by the Security Council prevail over any other obligations that they would be bound by.

Security Council Resolution 1593 (2005) does not contain strong language that would create a compelling legal obligation for UN member States to cooperate with the ICC in all the steps that it would take in the Darfur situation. However, paragraph 2 of its operative part formulates obligations not only for Sudan, but also for all member States that are urged by the Council to fully cooperate with the Court in the Darfur case. Indeed that paragraph indicates that the Security Council Read the rest of this entry…

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Second Thoughts on the Crime of Aggression

Published on April 9, 2009        Author: 

Professor Andreas Paulus holds the Chair of Public and International Law at Georg-August-University Göttingen. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the European Journal of International Law. He has served as counsel of the Federal Republic of Germany in the LaGrand case (Germany vs. United States) and as Adviser to the German team in the Certain Property (Liechtenstein v. Germany) cases before the International Court of Justice.

In his post on the Legal Position of ICC Parties and Non-Parties Regarding Aggression, Dapo Akande has shown that it is by no means assured that the Assembly of States Parties will be able to agree on a procedure for agreeing on a definition of the crime of aggression in the ICC Statute, let alone on the substance of a definition itself. The purpose of this post is different, however. Based on a discussion of the crime of aggression at this year’s ASIL Annual Meeting, I continue to have serious reservations as to the very goal of defining the crime of aggression at the present stage of development of the international law of the use of force [for a more extensive treatment, see my piece “Peace Through Justice?” in the Wayne Law Review 50 (2004) 1-35]. The inclusion of the crime in the jurisdiction of the Court at this particular moment may not only be ineffective, but has considerable potential to harm both the ICC and general international law. In my opinion, it is simply not good enough, as one panel participant at the ASIL meeting put it, that we do not know the effects of such a definition, but that a formulaic compromise could be found and the rest be left to the Court itself. Rather, dealing with one of the most serious issues of all times, the crime of aggression should only be included when it promises to have positive effect. Not to be misunderstood: I have been a supporter of the Court from the beginning. But that does not mean that the Court is a panacea that can only do good.

According to the agreed definition in Article 8 bis of the proposal of the Working Group, “‘crime of aggression’ means the planning, preparation, initiation or execution, […] of an act of aggression which, by its character, gravity and scale, constitutes a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations.” In my view, there are at least four reasons why this definition of the crime of aggression would do more harm than good at the present time:

1) The meaning of a “manifest” violation remains unclear, in spite of the attempt by the Working Group to clarify it. According to at least one member of the ASIL panel, “manifest” relates to the evidence for a violation. But that would amount to a confusion between evidence and substance of a crime. The terms “character, gravity and scale” rather suggest that certain acts of aggression are larger than others and therefore subject to prosecution. The drafting history would point to the inclusion of a threshold for prosecution “to exclude some borderline cases.” Read the rest of this entry…

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Would the addition of a Genocide Charge to the Bashir Arrest Warrant Change the Position on Immunity?

Published on March 24, 2009        Author: 

The Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Bashir only with respect to war crimes and crimes against humanity and rejected the Prosecutor’s request for a charge of genocide. Marko (and Kevin Jon Heller at Opinio Juris) have (rightly, in my view) criticized the reasoning by which the majority of the Chamber held that the materials provided by the prosecution failed to provide reasonable grounds to believe that Bashir and the Government of Sudan acted with the special intent to destroy the groups being targeted in Darfur. The Prosecutor has now appealed the decision of the PTC to reject the genocide charge. If the Appeals Chamber were to add the genocide charge to the arrest warrant, the decision would have an impact on whether other States may arrest Bashir. This is because it could then be argued that the genocide charge creates an obligation arising under the Genocide Convention 1948 for parties to that treaty to cooperate with the ICC, including an obligation of arrest.

 In the 2007 merits judgment in the Bosnian Genocide Convention Case, the International Court of Justice held (paras. 439-450) that the obligation to punish genocide contained in the Genocide Convention also includes an obligation to cooperate with competent international courts including an obligation to arrest persons suspected of genocide. In that case, the ICJ found that Serbia had violated this obligation by failing to arrest and surrender, to the ICTY, persons wanted by that tribunal in connection with the genocide in Srebrenica. The ICJ relied on Article VI of the Convention which provides that

 Persons charged with genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article III shall be tried by a competent tribunal of the State in the territory of which the act was committed, or by such international penal tribunal as may have jurisdiction with respect to those Contracting Parties which shall have accepted its jurisdiction.

 The court implied an obligation on States to cooperate with such competent international tribunals and to arrest persons wanted by the tribunal when the State on whose territory the person is found has accepted the jurisdiction of that tribunal. Read the rest of this entry…

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Distinctions between the Legal Position of ICC Parties and Non-Parties Regarding Aggression

Published on March 21, 2009        Author: 

The International Criminal Court (ICC) recently released the latest report of the Special Working Group (of the Assembly of States Parties) on the Crime of Aggression.  Art. 5 of the ICC Statute includes the crime of aggression as one of the crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court. However, the Court may only exercise jurisdiction over it once a provision has been adopted defining the crime and setting out the conditions under which the Court shall exercise over it. In anticipation of the ICC Review Conference to be held in 2010, the Special Working Group has been developing proposals on aggression.  The latest report reveals that the members of the Group are largely agreed on the definition of the crime of aggression which is based on General Assembly Resolution 3314 (1974) on the “Definition of Aggression.” According to the definition proposed by the Group:

For the purpose of this Statute, “crime of aggression” means the planning, preparation, initiation or execution, by a person in a position effectively to exercise control over or to direct the political or military action of a State, of an act of aggression which, by its character, gravity and scale, constitutes a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations.

“Act of aggression” is then said to mean:

the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations. Any of the following acts, regardless of a declaration of war, shall, in accordance with United Nations General Assembly resolution 3314 (XXIX) of 14 December 1974, qualify as an act of aggression: . . .

However, deep divisions remain over the role of the Security Council when attempts are made to invoke the jurisdiction of the ICC over aggression. In particular there is no agreement on whether the approval of the Security Council is required for the Prosecutor to proceed with an investigation regarding aggression and on whether a determination of aggression by the General Assembly or the International Court of Justice should suffice for the Prosecutor to proceed.  Questions also remain as to how the amendments regarding aggression are to become operatonal and as to whether the Security Council may refer a situation concerning aggression to the ICC before the entry into force of the amendments but after the Review Conference adopts a definition. The latter issue raises questions about the interpretation of Art. 121(5) of the Statute and whether there is a difference between the position of State parties and non-parties under the Statute. Read the rest of this entry…

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Who is Obliged to Arrest Bashir?

Published on March 13, 2009        Author: 

Last week, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Sudanese President, Omar Al Bashir. The Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC directed the ICC Registry to transmit a request for arrest and surrender of Bashir to (i) all States Parties to the ICC Statute and (ii) all United Nations Security Council members that are not States Parties to the Statute. Does this mean that these States are under an obligation to arrest Bashir were him to travel to their territory? Are these States even permitted by international law to arrest Bashir? It remains to be seen whether Bashir would be bold enough to leave Sudan. For example would he attend the Heads of States meeting of the African Union or perhaps wish to attend the annual session of United Nations General Assembly in New York. Were Bashir to travel abroad, States, particularly non-parties to the ICC Statute (like Ethiopia and the United States) would be faced with these tricky questions

 The answer to these questions depend on the extent to which international law accords immunity to Heads of States and on the legal nature of Security Council referrals of situations to the ICC. Many have noted the significance of an international tribunal issuing an arrest warrant for a serving Head of State. Of course, this is not the first time that this has happened. The ICTY issued a warrant for Milosevic while he was head of the State of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Special Court for Sierra Leone indicted Charles Taylor while he was President of Liberia. Christine Chung notes in her post below that there has been no hand-wringing by other States about Bashir’s immunity and suggest that this is a matter of interest only to academics. States may not have commented on this issue but this is only because States have not as yet been faced with the question. States will only be faced with the question if Bashir travels abroad and they are called upon to arrest him. In that scenario, States will have to consider not only this particular case but also the precedents that they wish to set. They will also have to consider what obligations they may have under the ICC Statute, under other treaties (including the UN Charter) and under customary international law.

While, the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber implicitly answered one part of the immunity question in its decision, it has not disposed of the entire question. The Pre-Trial Chamber in para 41considered that

the current position of Omar Al Bashir as Head of a state which is not a party  to the Statute, has no effect on the Court’s jurisdiction over the present case.

The PTC reached this decision based on four considerations the most important of which are that: (i) Art. 27 of the ICC provides that the Statute applies equally to all persons without distinction based on official capacity and that immunities which may attach to official capacity under national or international law shall not bar the Court from exercising jurisdiction; and (ii) the Security Council by referring the Darfur situation to the Court has accepted that the investigation and prosecution shall take place in accordance with the framework set out in the Statute.

Implied in the Court’s statement is the view, that the Security Council has implicitly adopted Art. 27 and thus implicitly sanctioned the exercise of jurisdiction by the Court over a serving head of State who would otherwise be immune from jurisdiction. I do not disagree with this. Any other view would leave Article 27 without effect.

However, the Court does not have power of arrests. Unless Bashir surrenders voluntarily, it will have to depend on a State to arrest Bashir. The question that then arises is whether Bashir is immune from arrest by national authorities. Read the rest of this entry…

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Justice for Bashir: What’s Different Today?

Published on March 5, 2009        Author: 

Christine Chung is a Senior Fellow at the Schell Center for International Human Rights, Yale Law School where she teaches “The International Criminal Court: Prospects for Global Justice.” Ms. Chung was the first senior trial attorney appointed at the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and worked in The Hague from 2004 to 2007.

If you’re looking for the justification for the front-page media headlines about the ICC warrant naming Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, there are two, to my mind. First, the world’s permanent international criminal court has charged a sitting head of State, and sister States aren’t close to hand-wringing over immunity. (My academic colleagues are a different matter – read, for example, Marko and Dapo). Yesterday’s decision might be the nail in the coffin of the era in which heads of State escaped being called to account for perpetrating atrocities.

Second, the decision of Pre-Trial Chamber I to decline to include the charge of genocide requested by Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo (by a 2-1 vote) reinforced that pursuing a genocide charge is, for an international prosecutor, fraught with peril. The old legal issues of how to define an “ethnic” group and where to find the specific intent to destroy a group (in the usual case, where there is no direct evidence) were very much in evidence in the Chamber’s split opinions. On top of those, the Judges wrestled with questions about the degree to which the ICC should adopt or follow genocide jurisprudence from the ICJ and the ad hoc tribunals, the proper interpretation of the “reasonable grounds” standard applicable at the stage of evaluating a request for an ICC arrest warrant, and how to reconcile the Rome Statute provisions with the ICC Elements of Crimes. Bottom line: the need to settle the law of this new Court, if anything, further complicates the already extremely difficult business of proving genocide.

As fascinated as we lawyers are by judicial decision-making, though, it’s more important in Bashir’s case to identify what did not change yesterday. Read the rest of this entry…

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