#GlobalJustice Weekly: Duterte announces intention to withdraw from ICC | Civil society engagement in Georgia | Alarm over Israel's residency legislation


President Duterte announces intention to withdraw from ICC

The president of the Philippines has released a statement announcing that the Philippines will be withdrawing its ratification of the Rome Statute “effective immediately”. The statement has been confirmed by the president’s legal council and spokesperson, and comes shortly after the ICC opened a preliminary examination into alleged crimes against humanity related to the president’s war on drugs campaign.

President Duterte originally welcomed the investigation into the campaign, which has reportedly killed an estimated 8,000 people since May 2016. He has since become more averse towards the ICC and recently instructed security forces not to cooperate with any international investigation. Opposition politicians in the Philippines have criticised the withdrawal statement, describing it as “self serving”. 

A withdrawal from the ICC requires an official notice of withdrawal and takes a year before officially coming into effect. Only one other state - Burundi -  has successfully withdrawn from the Court, with notice taking effect in October 2017. A withdrawal from the ICC does not affect the jurisdiction over the crimes allegedly committed during the time the state was a member, and any investigations that are authorised before the withdrawal takes effect would not be affected by the withdrawal. 


Civil society engagement in Georgia

Members of the Georgian Coalition for the ICC have begun implementing a project on civil society engagement with the ICC Georgia investigation. The project involves five Georgian NGOs - Human Rights Center, Article 42 of the Constitution, Georgian Young Lawyers Association, Georgian Center for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims and Justice International- and is aimed at providing information on the ICC process to the victims of the 2008 August War, and raising awareness of the ongoing investigation.

The project began last week with a visit to an IDP settlement near the South Ossetian border and discussion with individuals regarding the ICC and their concerns within the settlement. During the visit, members of the community were also interviewed using questionnaires. One of the main issues identified was a lack of clean drinking water and unsatisfactory living conditions. The organisations are hoping this project can provide information sessions with affected communities on the ICC process, and have requested more engagement from the Court towards those affected by the 2008 August War.

The project is potentially a rich source of research and documentation for the ICC Trust Fund for Victims, and also could inspire broader involvement from the international community to the situation in Georgia. The particapting NGOs nare planning to release their findings and report at the next Assembly of State’s Parties to the ICC.

The NGOs involved in the project represent the interests of hundreds of victims on the national and international level, including before the European Court of Human Rights and International Criminal Court


Alarm over Israel's new residency legislation

Civil society has criticised an amendment to the “Entry into Israel” law passed by the Israeli Knesset last week. The amendment allows Israel to revoke the permanent residency status of East Jerusalem Palestinians on the basis of a “breach of allegiance”. Al-Haq issued an appeal to the international community to pressure Israel to revoke the law which has been described by Palestinian civil society as “racist” and “illegal under international humanitarian law (IHL)”.

As an occupied territory under IHL, it is illegal to impose an obligation of loyalty to the occupying power under the Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention. Human Rights Watch has previously described the forcible transfer of Palestinians from East Jerusalem as a possible war crime under the jurisdiction of the ICC.

Al-Haq has warned of the “grave ramifications” of the law, including the suppression of Palestinian resistance to Israel occupation in pursuit of the right to self-determination, while Israeli politicians claim it will be used primarily against “permanent residents who plan to carry out attacks against Israeli citizens”.


Preliminary examinations

Colombia: Colombia has concluded its first elections since the newly-formed FARC party wasestablished following peace talks with the Colombian government. The elections resulted in a divided congress with no majority among the three most popular right wing parties, and no additional legislative seats for the FARC party apart from the five promised to them as part of the peace agreement.

Ukraine: Chairman of the Ukrainian National Group of Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), Mr. Hryhoriy Nemyria, MP, met with President of PGA Mrs. Margaret Cederfelt, MP (Sweden) and PGA Secretary General, Dr David Donat-Cattin on March 8th 2018. The parties discussed the situation in Ukraine and stressed the need for Ukraine to ratify the Rome Statute of the ICC.

Venezuela: The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has issued guidelines for the protection of Venezuelan refugees fleeing the country. The guidelines encourage states to ensure Venezuelans have access to the territory and refugee procedures. Referring to the reasons for the outflow of refugees from the country, UNHCR spokesperson, Aikaterini Kitidi, said that, “The movements are taking place for a variety of reasons, including insecurity and violence, lack of food, medicine or access to essential social services as well as loss of income.”

Afghanistan: The UN Security Council voted unanimously to renew the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for another year. Speaking on the occasion, the Secretary General’s Special Representative and head of the UNAMA, Tadamichi Yamamoto, noted the mission’s focus for the coming year on supporting peace efforts in the region. He encouraged the Taliban to accept the Afghan government’s offer of negotiations without preconditions.

Yamamoto also expressed concern about the increase in civilian casualties caused by the Islamic State in the Khorasan Province (ISKP), which has been expanding its operations from its stronghold in eastern-Afghanistan to the northern regions.

ICC investigations

DRC: The International Organisation for Migration has warned of ‘unprecedented’ levels of forced displacement in the DRC, stating that approximately 4.5 million persons have fled attacks by armed groups since the last quarter of 2017.  The IOM has appealed for more funding to deal with the humanitarian crisis in the DRC. A pledging conference will be held in Geneva, hosted by the UN, the European Commission and the Netherlands.

A report from Djugu territory has also shed light on a potential ‘ethnic cleansing’ campaign by the Lendu group against the Hema community. Interviews with members of the displaced Hema community reveal raids by Lendu men on Hema villages, killing the elderly, children and even infants in an attempt to rid the region of the Hema community. Approximately, 150,000 people have fled their homes in the region since December 2017. The death toll from these attacks is unknown.

Sudan: The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramilla Patten, concluded a visit to Sudan, and called for an end to the culture of denial for conflict-related sexual violence. She reported on how women ‘continue to be raped’ when they leave their homes, or pursue livelihood activities. Patten said that she expected Sudan to sign a joint communique with her office that will,  “reflect the Government’s commitment to address conflict-related sexual violence”.

Burundi:  The Human Rights Council held an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi. Members of the Commission of Inquiry criticised Burundi for its lack of cooperation, stating that Burundian authorities had rejected all humanitarian response plans and that members of the Commission were subjected to threats from officials.

The government’s crackdown on political opposition was also highlighted. The Commission reported that it received testimonies from victims who were threatened and harassed by the authorities for opposing the government’s proposed constitutional reforms.  Earlier in the week, Burundi’s ruling political party named President Pierre Nkurunziza its ‘eternal supreme guide.’ Nkurunziza has been in power since 2005.  

Campaign for global justice

ICC President Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi’s End of Mandate Report: The former President of the ICC, Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, published her End of Mandate Report on 9 March 2018. The report summarizes the main initiatives she promoted on a priority basis during her 3-year tenure as President of the Court. Of the initiatives taken by Judge de Gurmendi, the report focuses on actions to enhance efficiency and effectiveness within the Judiciary, actions to enhance court-wide coordination and efficiency and external actions to enhance support.

Myanmar: UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, in a report delivered to the Human Rights Council, said that she was increasingly of the opinion that the events in Rakhine State ‘bear the hallmarks of genocide’ and called for a UN structure that would investigate evidence of human rights violations and abuses. Lee said that reports of the investigative body should be published for future international criminal proceedings against the atrocities committed in Myanmar.

STL publishes Ninth Annual Report: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has submitted its ninth annual report to the UN Secretary-General and the Government of Lebanon. The report highlights the achievements of the Tribunal’s four organs: Chambers, Office of the Prosecutor, Defence Office and the Registry. accordint to the report, the Tribunal’s main achievements during the 2017-2018 period include  the closing of the Prosecutor’s case-in-chief in the Ayyash et al. case, and the presentation of evidence on behalf of victims of the 14 February 2005 attack.

Around the world  

Russia: Russia’s last presidential mandate has overseen 50 new “anti-democracy laws”, research by FIDH has found. The new laws range from increased surveillance and censorship laws, to banning the “questioning of the Russian nation”, and grant authorities the powers to suppress political and religious freedom.

Iraq: The UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict has concluded a visit to Iraq, where she met with women and girls who have suffered under Da’esh. In talks with authorities in Iraq, she stressed that members of ISIS should be held accountable for sexual violence crimes in addition to terrorism-related charges.

Myanmar: The militarisation of Myanmar’s Rakhine State is continuing at an “alarming pace”, Amnesty International warned this week. The flattening and rebuilding of what was Rohingya villages in the State has allegedly intensified since January, and has been described as a “land grab at an alarming scale” by Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Director.