#GlobalJusticeWeekly / Gaza killings / Calls for ICC action | Gambia / Ex-President tied to migrant murders | Ukraine / Advance rule of law

Civil society has widely condemned the use of force by Israel Defence Forces causing the deaths of 60 protesters this week at the Gaza border © Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
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Palestine / Calls for ICC investigation as Israel Defence Forces kill dozens of Gaza protestors

Calls for International Criminal Court investgations into the alleged commission of grave international crimes in Israel/Palestine came from several quarters this week as Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) opened fire on Palestinian protestors, killing 60 Palestinians and injuring hundreds. The ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda meanwhile said that she was watching closely the unrest in Gaza, and would "take any action warranted" to prosecute crimes.

"My staff is vigilantly following developments on the ground and recording any alleged crime that could fall within" the tribunal's jurisdiction, warned the prosecutor in a statement to the AFP new agency.. 

The United Nations and global civil society widely condemned violence in Gaza this week related to the ‘great return march’ of Palestinian protesters towards the Israeli border in Gaza was commemorating the day of Al-Nakba; when approximately 800,000 Palestinians were forcefully displaced from their lands during the 1948 war. There were also demonstations against the opening of the United States embassy in Jerusalem. 

"I urge Israel to act in accordance with its international obligations. Palestinians' right to life, their right to security of the person and rights to freedom of assembly and expression must be respected & protected." said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Pince Zeid at a Special Session of Human Rights Council on the deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem on 18 May 2018. 

The events have been termed by Al-Haq, amongst others, as violations of the international law, including the prohibition of the targeting of civilians under international humanitarian law, a violation of the obligations of Israel as an occupying force under the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians, and a violation of the right to life of protesters under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Amnesty International highlighted medical reports from Gaza showing that many protesters had been shot in the head or chest. It condemned the use of ‘excessive force’ by the IDF, stating that, “[t]his is another horrific example of the Israeli military using excessive force and live ammunition in a totally deplorable way. This is a violation of international standards, in some instances committing what appear to be wilful killings constituting war crimes.” It also reiterated an earlier call on the international community to stop the delivery of arms and military equipment to Israel.

Human Rights Watch also condemned the events in Gaza, highlighting the fact that Israeli forces have shot dead over 100 Palestinians in demonstrations in Gaza since March 30, including 14 children, and injured over 3,500 with live fire. Criticising Israel’s policy of justifying the use of live ammunition against protesters, it said that such an approach enables bloodshed on a mass scale and prevents the accountability of Israeli soldiers in domestic courts.

10 of the 15 members of the UN Security Council issued a letter to the UN Secretary General earlier in the week, expressing concern over the United States’ move to open its embassy in Jerusalem; a move that they saw as a direct violation of a 2016 Security Council resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building on land that Palestinians want for an independent state.

“The Security Council must stand behind its resolutions and ensure they have meaning; otherwise, we risk undermining the credibility of the international system,” wrote Bolivia, China, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, France, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Peru and Sweden.

The United States blocked the adoption of a UN Security Council statement that called for an “independent and transparent investigation” into Israel’s killing of Palestinian protestors on the Gaza border.

Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, condemned Israel’s excessive use of force towards largely unarmed demonstrators:

“This blatant excessive use of force by Israel – an eye for an eyelash – must end, and there must be true accountability for those in military and political command who have ordered or allowed this force to be once again employed at the Gaza fence."

Meanwhile, global media freedoms watchdog Reporters Without Borders has submitted a formal communication under article 15 of the Rome Statute to the International Criminal Court to investigate “what it regards as war crimes” committed by the Israeli military against Palestinian journalists covering protests in Gaza since 30 March.

The Arab League's Permanent Committee on Human Rights also called on the International Criminal Court prosecutor to urgently investigate "the crimes of the Israeli occupation" against Palestinians. Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu did similar.

Writing in the Washtington Post, academic Mark Kersten said that "[t]he ICC may not open an investigation into the Palestinian territories today— or even this year. But the civilian toll in Gaza and the lack of accountability for alleged crimes in either Israeli and Palestinian courts means that it will only be a matter of time. The court cannot keep Palestinians in the purgatory of a preliminary examination forever. When the time comes, will the international community finally step up and support justice in the territories?"

In January 2015, Palestine acceded to the Rome Statute and gave the ICC prosecutor jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict, in Gaza and East Jerusalem. The ICC prosecutor opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine on 16 January 2015, following an article 12(3) declaration lodged by the Palestinian government on 1 January of that same year.

ICC Palestine

 

Gambia / Ex-President Jammeh tied to murders of Ghanaian and Nigerian migrants

A joint investigation by Human Rights Watch and Trial International has revealed that more than 50 Ghanaian, Nigerian and other west African migrants were summarily executed as per the orders of former president, Yahya Jammeh.

The investigations, based on interviews with officials in the Gambian hierarchy, reveal that the migrants were suspected of being mercenaries plotting the over-throw of the Jammeh regime. The reports show that the executions were carried out by the ‘Junglers’; a special unit set-up by Jammeh that took direct orders from him.

According to the report, he migrants – including some 44 Ghanaians and several Nigerians – were arrested in July 2005 at a beach where they had landed, then transferred to the Gambian Naval Headquarters in Banjul, the capital. They were detained there in the presence of the inspector general of police, the director general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the chief of the defense staff, and the commander of the National Guards. At least two of them were in telephone contact with Jammeh during the operation. The head and several members of the paramilitary Junglers were also there.

Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch, said of the revelations, “[t]he West African migrants weren’t murdered by rogue elements, but by a paramilitary death squad taking orders from President Jammeh. Jammeh’s subordinates then destroyed key evidence to prevent international investigators from learning the truth.”

Human Rights Watch and Trial International launched a campaign to bring Yahya Jammeh and his accomplices to justice in October 2017, (#Jammeh2Justice), which calls for prosecuting Jammeh and others who bear the greatest responsibility for his government’s crimes under international fair trial standards.

Yahya Jammeh’s regime, in power from 1994 to 2017, was marked with numerous cases of orced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and arbitrary detention. He is currently in self-imposed exile in Equatorial Guinea after losing the December 2016 presidential election to Adama Barrow.

 

Ukraine / Civil society discusses harmonisation of criminal legislation with international law

Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) and the Center for Civil Liberties held a roundtable on “Ensuring harmonization of the criminal legislation with provisions of the international law - a considerable step on the way to protecting human rights.” The event was attended by members of the Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada), representatives of government bodies, experts, NGOs and international organizations.

The roundtable proposed, inter alia, the inclusion of liability for crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes into the Ukrainian criminal legislation. Other focus areas included, human rights violations during the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution/ Revolution of Dignity, and the lack of human rights protection on the temporarily-occupied territories of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and separate districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions during the armed conflict with the Russian Federation.

Speaking on the occasion, chair of the roundtable conference and a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, Hryhoriy Nemyria said, “[t]his is not the first roundtable on the topic. But it is extremely important in today’s context. Ukraine has signed the Rome Statute and the Verkhovna Rada has twice voted for resolutions on the acknowledgment of the ICC jurisdiction, but our state has not yet ratified the Rome Statute. We have a military conflict in the East of Ukraine and, as a result, a great number of civil population that suffered. In the current situation, we must not only explain the importance of the Rome Statute ratification by Ukraine but use the existing instruments and create new ones.”

 

ICC Investigations

Burundi: An attack by an armed group in northwest Burundi has left 26 people dead days before the referendum which would allow current President Pierre  Nkurunziza to stay in power for another 16 years. The Burundi government has blamed “terrorists” from the DRC.

CAR: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on government, national and international actors to work towards ending religious violence in the CAR. An increase in violence has been seen in recent weeks, after 22 people were killed in an attack on a Church at the beginning of May. 

Libya: Amnesty International has criticised the EU policy of intercepting and returning Libyan migrants and refugees. At least 2,600 people have been transferred to “squalid detention centres” in Libya and faced torture and extortion in the past two months alone.

Uganda: The trial of Jamil Mukulu has begun in Uganda. Mukulu was the leader of the Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan rebel group operating in the DRC.

 

ICC Preliminary Examinations

Colombia:  Amnesty International has urged thorough investigations into the killings of two community leaders in Colombia. Amnesty has called for Colombian authorities to take action to protect human rights defenders, as over 170 have been killed since the signing of the peace agreement in November 2016.  

Venezuela: The ‘Lima Group’ have called Venezuelan presidential election process “illegitimate and lacking in credibility”, and urged Venezuela to suspend the election scheduled for May 20th. The Lima Group are a group of largely Latin American nations established to address the crisis in Venezuela.  

Afghanistan: The UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, ended a four day visit to Afghanistan this week by welcoming progress by the Afghanistan government in improving its human rights record. Mr Gilmour also outlined some areas of concern, including impunity for violence and discrimination against women, and vulnerability of civilians in preparation for elections this October.  

 

Campaign for Global Justice

Nicaragua: The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has requested Nicaraguan authorities to allow the office to enter the country and conduct an investigation into the violence that occurred in mid April which led to the deaths of at least 47 people.  

The Gambia: The Gambian Chief Justice Hassan Jallow has spoken in support of giving regional African courts the power to prosecute international crimes in order to strengthen complementarity across the Continent.

 

Around the World

USA: Groups such as the ECCHR, Physicians for Human Rights and International Commission of Jurists have criticized the nomination Gina Haspel as head of the CIA, and have called for a criminal investigation into her alleged involvement with torture and other serious crimes.

Myanmar: The UN Human Rights Office has urged for a resolution to the conflict in Myanmar’s Kachin and Shan provinces, where protracted conflict has resulted in increased violence and civilian casualties.