Boko Haram on trial | CAR violence | ICC and Ocampo respond

Nigerian Lives Matter protest in London against Boko Haram violence. © Garry Knight

Trials of thousands of Boko Haram suspects begin in Nigeria

In global justice news this week, Nigeria commenced trials of more than 1,600 suspected members of Boko Haram before a special court. Civil society has expressed concern about the fairness of the trials, which will be held in secret and will see four judges deal with hundreds of cases each. The UN Refugee agency has awarded its Nansen prize to a Nigerian lawyer who helped secure the release of a a group of schoolgirls' from Boko Haram. 

Amnesty International believe the trials are a much needed opportunity for justice, the organisation remains apprehensive, stating that "the fact the trials are taking place behind closed doors, with no access for the media or the public, raises huge concerns. Public hearings are crucial for protecting an individual’s right to a fair trial and due process."

“Does the judiciary have the capacity to give so many people charged with very serious offences a fair trial? Are they taking into account the fact that a lot of those who committed violence for Boko Haram did so under duress? All these are red flags and very concerning in terms of the broader strategy,” said Ryan Cummings, a South Africa-based expert.

On Friday, the Nigerian army released 760 arrested Boko Haram suspects to the Borno State government for rehabilitation and reintegration following their aquittal. The suspects who were arrested during the on-going crackdown in the North East by troops of Operation Lafiya Dole were cleared after interrogations by the Joint Intelligence Centre of the Theatre Command

An aid agency stated this week that the vast majority of almost 2 million Nigerians driven from their homes by the conflict with Boko Haram still cannot return because of a lack of security.

 

Violence escalates in CAR

A renewed escalation of violence in the Central African Republic has caused a huge increase in refugees fleeing into neighbouring Cameroon. United Nations aid agencies are struggling to meet the needs of displaced persons in Eastern Cameroon as the population of the Gado refugee camp stretches to 25,000. 

Human Rights Watch have released a report detailing how armed groups in CAR have used rape and sexual slavery as a tactic of war across the country during the five years of conflict. The 176-page report documents 305 cases of rape and sexual slavery carried out against 296 women and girls by members of armed groups between early 2013 and mid-2017.

“Armed groups are using rape in a brutal, calculated way to punish and terrorize women and girls,” said Hillary Margolis, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Every day, survivors live with the devastating aftermath of rape, and the knowledge that their attackers are walking free, perhaps holding positions of power, and to date facing no consequences whatsoever.”

However, Amnesty International have stated that the Special Criminal Court in the Central African Republic (SCC) is starting to take shape. SCC is a 'hybrid' tribunal that has jurisdiction over grave human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law committed since 2003. Established by law in June 2015, it will be entirely within the national legal system, but have both national and international judges and staff.

 

ICC and Ocampo respond to allegations

Former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo has written a public letter to current ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda expressing willingness to assist with the Court's investigation into "allegations based on hacked and stolen information and published through two different media collectives." The allegations reportedly relate to the conduct of Moreno Ocampo while he was ICC prosecutor and to his interactions with the ICC in his private practice following the end of his tenure. 

In a statement last week, Prosecutor Bensouda had said that she had "reported the allegations implicating two members of my staff to the Independent Oversight Mechanism available to the Court within its legal framework," and that she based all her decisions on her "own independent assessments, as the Statute requires me to do, as Prosecutor."   

 

ICC investigations

Georgia: Phakiso Mochochoko, Director of the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division in ICC, has stated that neither Russia nor South Ossetia are cooperating with the ICC investigation into crimes against humanity in the 2008 war in Georgia.    

Mali: The UN Security Council has expressed a deep concern over delays in implementing key provisions of the peace agreement between the Government of Mali and the Plateforme and Coordination armed groups, urging the adoption of a timeline for implementation. 

DRC: As conflict rages, almost two-thirds of the Congolese refugees fleeing into Zambia are children.So far, 4,000 refugees have been registered at the refugee camp in northern Zambia. Aid workers say unaccompanied children need to be placed in foster homes.

Uganda: The flood of people fleeing South Sudan to Adjumani has lead to World Food Programme food rations to refugees being slashed by half. WFP said this was due to delayed payments. 

 

Preliminary examinations

Palestine: Thousands of Palestinian and Israeli women have joined together to march through the desert for peace and to demand a political solution to the conflict which has divided the two communities for decades.

Afghanistan: The International Committee of the Red Cross has announced it is drastically reducing its presence in Kunduz, Faryab and Balkh after a series of deadly attacks on its staff. Seven staff members have been killed so far this year.

 

Campaign for Global Justice

The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC has acknowledged a petition sent to it by NGO HEDA on the treatment of the minority Muslims of Rohingya. The petition said findings revealed the callousness of Myanmar's military troops and government.

The Advisory Committee on Nominations of Judges of the ICC has held its sixth meeting. The Committee interviewed 12 candidates for six positions of judges in upcoming December elections.

 

Around the world

Bangledesh has announced it will build one of the world’s biggest refugee camps to house all the 800,000-plus Rohingya Muslims who have sought asylum from violence in Myanmar.

The United Nations has stated that the the African Union Mission in Somalia is responsible for killing 42 children last year. The UN also blamed air strikes by the Kenyan Defence Forces for killing another 11 children in Somalia.

Philipphines President Rodrigo Duterte has boasted that he is immune from suit in the face of charges of ordering and condoning the murder of thousands of civilians. A former prosecutor himself, Duterte touts immunity as an armor.

Iraq: With Islamic State expelled from Mosul after a prolonged siege, civilians are beginning to return. However, food is in short supply and aid agencies are being stretched to the limit.