#GlobalJustice Weekly - An end to genocide | Colombian violence escalates

Farc fighters at a demobilization zone © Christian Escobar Mora/EPA
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A global end to genocide

The term “genocide” was developed in 1943 to describe an intentional action to destroy an ethnic, national, racial or religious group.

Thanks to the Rome Statute system of international justice, the world today stands better equipped than ever to investigate, prosecute and even prevent genocide. But governments must do much more to ensure the system functions effectively.

This April's Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month is an important time to reflect on the growth of international justice and its role in preventing genocide.

Take a look back at how the crime of genocide came to be included under the jurisdiction of the world’s first permanent International Criminal Court to better understand how states, civil society and every member of the international community can maximize the Rome Statute as a key tool for ending genocide.

On the occasion of the Genocide Awareness Month, the International Criminal Court (ICC) said that it reaffirms its steadfast commitment to addressing the scourge of atrocity crimes through its judicial work, as part of the broader global justice system that includes national, regional as well as international courts. As reflected in the Court's founding treaty, the Rome Statute, grave crimes that threaten the peace, security and well-being of the world must not go unpunished. Victims must come first.

The Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) held a global week of action, including a 24-hour hunger strike and a rally, to protest against the continuing violence in Sudan and the ongoing impunity of Sudanese president and ICC fugitive Omar al-Bashir.

Meanwhile Rwanda has been engaged in efforts to preserve the memory of the 1994 genocide with the rehabilitation and proper management of memorial sites, as well as bids to have some of these memorials registered as UNESCO world heritage sites.

The UN war crimes commission has made available to the public — for the first time — an archive used in the prosecution of Nazi war criminals, among which are files attesting to the fact that the prosecution of rape and forced prostitution as war crimes reached as far back as the late 1940s in tribunals across Greece, the Philippines and Poland.

The UK International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, has said that the violence in South Sudan amounts to genocide being perpetrated along tribal lines, going one step further than the UN, as she called for African leaders to step up the response to the young country’s continuing civil war.

 

Violence in Colombia amid shaky peace deal

The peace deal which has seen the end of the half-a-century long conflict between the government and the Farc rebels is on tentative ground after members of the left wing group killed a Colombian soldier. This is one among a number of examples of escalating violence in the region that has seen former rebel fighters clash with each other and with government troops.

The end of the Farc means that there is a power vacuum in the locations they once occupied, which is reportedly quickly being filled by armed gangs and other smaller rebel groups, seeking to take advantage of the profitable positions that the Farc once controlled.

The government is meanwhile putting together an independent tribunal which will seek to hold to account those accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the war.

Colombia signed the Rome Statute in 1998 and ratified in 2002; however, it has not fully domesticated Statute crimes and cooperation provisions. In 2004, the ICC prosecutor opened a preliminary examination for possible crimes against humanity from 2002 onward and war crimes from 2009 onward by the government and rebel groups. The ICC prosecutor is closely monitoring the Colombian peace process to ensure that justice measures are genuine and hold accountable those who bear the greatest responsibility for atrocity crimes.

Read more on our Colombia country page.

 

ICC investigations

DRC: Two suspects have been arrested by the authorities in relation to the killing of two UN investigators last month, but one managed to escape. Their bodies were discovered last month whilst their Congolese interpreter is still missing.

Uganda: The hunt for LRA Commander Joseph Kony appears to have reached its conclusion as Uganda announced it was withdrawing troops from the Central African Republic where it believes Kony to be hiding, following a similar move by the US to withdraw its troops involved in the hunt.

CAR: UNMISCA, the UN mission in Bangui has expressed dismay at aggression against its staff after one member was attacked whilst visiting Bambari to investigate a death. This comes as a mix of storms and fires have plunged the country deeper into crisis, leaving 5,000 civilians homeless.

 

ICC preliminary examinations

Burundi: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has expressed concern over a video being circulated on social media depicting members of the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD party in Burundi, chanting calls to impregnate or kill opponents.

Nigeria: Three years after 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram, the president of Nigeria announced that negotiations are underway with the militant Islamist group to release the remaining captive Chibok girls.

Palestine: The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has called on the ICC to speed up its preliminary examination into possible Israeli war crimes, days after Amnesty International decried Israel’s policy of depriving Palestinian prisoners of visitation rights as a “blatant violation of international law.”

 

Campaign for Global Justice

Students at the University of California, Berkeley, are volunteering to authenticate footage from war zones around the world in a bid to help international human rights groups raise awareness of global atrocities and prosecute war criminals.

Next week Brussels will host a global assembly of North Korean defectors, where attendees are expected to call for a referral of North Korean officials to the ICC for possible crimes against humanity.

The ICC and Argentina have concluded an agreement on the enforcement of sentences which states that persons convicted by the Court may serve their sentences of imprisonment in Argentina if decided by the Court and accepted by Argentina.

 

Around the world

A private attempt to prosecute former UK prime minister Tony Blair, by former Iraqi general Abdul-Wahid Shannan ar-Ribat, has stalled after the UK's Attorney-General asked for the case to be thrown out. The charges were for the crime of aggression for Blair’s role in instigating the Iraq War, but British criminal law does not recognize the crime.

The Ethiopian state-affiliated Human Rights Commission has said 669 people have died in anti-government protests since they began in November 2015. This comes after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn rejected calls for an UN investigation, advising that the country was able to carry out its own investigation.

The ruling military Junta in Thailand is targeting peaceful activists and critics for prosecution, according to Human Rights Watch