#GlobalJustice Weekly / Myanmar: Refer to ICC | Cote d’Ivoire: Justice needed on all sides | Burundi: Media crackdown

Members of a U.N. Security Council delegation talk with Rohingya refugees during a visit to Tombru, in southeastern Bangladesh’s Bandarban district (c) AFP

Myanmar / Civil society urges referral to ICC

Four human rights groups — Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect and Fortify Rights — are urging the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Myanmar to the ICC. The Myanmar military has been accused of committing crimes against humanity against the ethnic Rohingya minority in Myanmar. Last week, the Security Council visited refugee camps in Bangladesh where over 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled violence in the Rakhine State.

“Now that the Security Council has heard directly from Rohingya refugees about the horrors inflicted by Myanmar’s army, the need to hold those responsible to account should be clear,” said Param-Preet Singh, Human Rights Watch associate international justice director.

Physicians for Human Rights has also called for a Security Council referral. PHR’s director of programs, Homer Venters, said that the organisation has documented crucial medical and scientific evidence to corroborate individual accounts of attacks. Based on these testimonies, and those of eyewitnesses, our findings point to widespread atrocities against the Rohingya”

A statement by UN Security Council President Joanna Wronecka after the visit said that the Council was “struck” by the scale of the humanitarian crisis, and urged the Government of Myanmar to “ fulfil, based on respect for the rule of law, its stated commitment to holding accountable perpetrators of violence, including sexual violence and abuse and violence against children”.

UK Ambassador and representative to the Security Council, Karen Pierce, has called for an independent investigation into the situation and acknowledged the possibility of this investigation being carried out by the ICC. ““In order to have accountability, you need a proper investigation with evidentiary standards”, carried out in Myanmar or at the International Court.

 

Cote d’Ivoire / Human rights groups call for justice on all sides

Human rights groups are calling for more action to ensure justice for victims of Cote d’Ivoire’s election violence in 2010-11. A joint open letter signed by Coalition members such as FIDH and Human Rights Watch calls for President Ouattarra to ensure balanced justice for alleged perpetrators of crimes on both sides of the violence.

The letter states that “despite your earlier promises to deliver impartial justice, the investigation and prosecution of crimes attributed to the (...) forces fought on your side during the conflict has appeared not to have occurred with the same diligence as those attributable to the security forces, militia and mercenaries who sided with Laurent Gbagbo”.

FIDH Vice President Me Drissa Traoré, highlighted that “seven years after the serious crimes, victims are still waiting for justice. Midway through his second term, President Ouattara should keep his promises to deliver impartial justice, so essential to sustainable peace in Cote d’Ivoire.”

President Ouattara initially asked the ICC to investigate the post election crisis, but his attitude towards the court altered in 2015, when he stated that all future trials will be held in Cote d’Ivoire. The Court is currently trying Charles Blé Goudé and Laurent Gbagbo for crimes against humanity during the post election violence.

 

Burundi / Crack-down on media outlets condemned

Authorities in Burundi have started a crack-down on media sites and organisations, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. The crack-down, implemented by Burundi’s media regulator, National Communication Council (CNC), has so far led to the banning of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Voice of America (VoA) media outlets in the country, among others.

The crack-down is believed to be in relation to unwanted criticisms of the Burundian government ahead of the constitutional referendum, to be held on 17 May 2018. If the proposed amendments to the constitution go through, President Pierre Nkurunziza – in power since 2005 – will be able to extend his term in office until 2034.

Human Rights Watch, while condemning the move, stated that, “As campaigning kicks off around the referendum, more violence can be expected, with Burundians increasingly in the dark, reliant on rumours and scraps of information. But the government can’t stop the networks of Burundians sending information to Burundian and international human rights groups. Even with all the radio stations in the country shut, crimes will ultimately be reported and those responsible eventually brought to justice.”

The High Representative for the European Union, Federica Mogherini, also condemned the media crackdown and ‘deplored’ the suspension of the BBC and VoA in the country. About the referendum, Mogherini said that “This process takes place in a climate of persistent intimidation and repression and is marked by the absence of a consensual approach between the different societal and political groups.”

Within Burundi, a group of influential Catholic Bishops of Burundi expressed their opposition to the proposed referendum. The move by President Nkurunziza has been labelled as violative of the Arusha Peace Accords (2000), which which helped to end a 1993-2006 conflict that killed more than 300 000 people; as per the Arusha Accords, the maximum term for a President of Burundi was set for 10 years.

 

DR Congo / ICC Prosecutor says recent violence could constitute ICC crimes

The ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement on the conclusion of her trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo; a visit that was aimed at addressing the ongoing violence in the country, the ICC’s ongoing investigations into atrocities committed in the DRC, and steps taken by the Congolese authorities to address violence under the principle of complementarity. During her visit, Bensouda met with President Joseph Kabila, Congolese polictical and judicial authorities, representatives of the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo, various political parties, members of the civil society, the media and other partners.

Expressing concerns regarding the recent incidents of violence in Kinshasa, Béni, the Kasaï provinces and other regions - which she stated “could allegedly constitute crimes under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC)” – Bensouda requested Congolese authorities to take all necessary measures to conduct genuine investigations. On the progress of current investigations by Congolese authorities, the ICC Prosecutor expressed her appreciation for the government’s efforts and ensured continued support from her office in this regard.

On the prevention of future atrocity crimes, the Prosecutor called on all stakeholders and parties to continue working to ensure that adequate measures are implemented as soon as possible, especially in when the risk of commission of grave crimes is high. She stated, “We are more determined than ever to support and strengthen efforts and capacity to prevent criminal violence, and we shall not hesitate to prosecute those responsible for atrocities committed in the DRC, in accordance with the principles of complementarity and cooperation set out in the Rome Statute.”

She also thanked the Congolese people and the authorities for their, “… support and for their adherence to the principles and values of the Rome Statute, which they have ratified. I am confident that we can always count on the cooperation of the Congolese authorities in our activities in the DRC. [I] would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Congolese authorities and people for the warm welcome extended to us, and to recall my Office's steadfast determCoination to pursue its activities in the DRC to fight impunity and bring justice to victims.”

 

ICC investigations

Libya/Security Council: The ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, addressed the UN Security Council on ICC investigations in Libya, pursuant to UNSC Resolution 1970 (2011) earlier this week. In her periodic report to the Security Council, Prosecutor Bensouda explained that ‘significant progress’ had taken place in the Libya investigation. This was especially attributed to the ability of the ICC’s investigation team to visit Libya for the first time since 2012; this had previously not been possible because of security concerns.

On the outstanding ICC arrest warrants for Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, and Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled, the Prosecutor urged the Security Council to provide it with support and assistance in apprehending them to the ICC. The ICC Prosecutor also used the occasion to reiterate her office’s stance to issue new warrants of arrest in relation to the Libya situation, specifically, in relation to the recent atrocities committed in Benghazi.

In relation to the reported crimes of human trafficking and abuses against migrants in Libya, the Prosecutor expressed her willingness to work with governments and inter-governmental organisations in the region to ensure that such crimes are properly investigated.

Of the challenges faced by her office in Libya, Prosecutor Bensouda highlighted the continuing extra-judicial killings carried out in Libya in the context of the ongoing armed conflict. She also expressed concerns over reports of the killings, abuse and mistreatment of migrants, specifically related to the ‘slave auctions’ in Libya.

Bemba: The Defence in Jean-Pierre Bemba’s trial at the ICC has been denied access to confidential ICC records on the former Congolese Vice-President’s financial status.  Rejecting the defence’s plea, Judge Geoffrey Henderson of Trial Chamber III, ruled that the ICC Registry’s identification, tracing, freezing and seizure of property and assets was necessary, among others to ensure that, should his conviction for war crimes be confirmed on appeal, victims may obtain reparations for the harm they may have suffered.

DRC: Officials in the DRC have said they are working closely to ensure justice after the recent violence in the Kasai province, in which UN experts and their escorts were killed.

 

Preliminary examinations

Afghanistan: UNAMA and Human Rights Watch have released two new reports on civilian casualties during the Afghan conflict. The reports address instances where precaution to spare civilians was not adhered to, and reports on victims and survivors of insurgent attacks during the conflict.  

 

Campaign for global justice

The International Commission of Jurists has released a report on the trail of civilians by military courts. The report addresses the competences of military tribunals, and assesses the standards related to the right to be judged by an independent, impartial tribunal.

The President of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, has concluded his first working visit to New York since election. During the visit, the ICC President and UN Secretary General spoke about continuing cooperative relations between the two organisations, in accordance with the Relationship Agreement concluded in 2004 between the Court and the UN.

Around the world

Rohingya: The World Health Organisation has issued a warning about overcrowded, unsanitary conditions in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. Dr. Richard Brennan, Director of Emergency Operations at WHO, told reporters in Geneva that they “are looking down the barrel of the monsoon season with the inherent risk of flooding, landslides, as well as the cyclone season”.

Bosnia-Herzegovina: A former member of the Bosnian army has been briefly detained for alleged war crimes against  Serb civilians during the 1992-1995 conflict, sparking protests in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo.