#GlobalJustice Weekly / Myanmar on UN sexual violence list | New ICC Registrar sworn-in | Prosecutor Bensouda on gender justice


UN Secretary General adds Myanmar military to sexual violence blacklist

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, in a report to the Security Council, added the Myanmar military to a blacklist of groups ‘credibly suspected’ of carrying out sexual violence during conflict on the basis of its actions in 2017.  

The report stated that the sexual violence - including rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization, forced marriage and other form of sexual violence –  was an integral part of the Myanmar military’s strategy of “humiliating, terrorizing and collectively punishing the Rohingya community.” According to the report, sexual violence was linked to a narrative that high fertility rates among the Rohingya posed an existential threat to the majority population. Therefore, violence was carried out against women – including pregnant women – in an attempt to extinguish the Rohingya ethnic identity, and on young children, who represent the group’s future.

Human Rights Watch had reported the incidents earlier last year, stating that after attacks on police posts in Myanmar carried out by insurgent Rohingya groups, the Myanmar military engaged in a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya population. This campaign included wide-spread rape and sexual violence against Rohingya women and girls.

In Bangladesh, the Rohingya women and girls that have fled their homes reportedly to face severe challenges, including inadequate access to sexual and reproductive health care, long-term psychological trauma, and the risk of trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Earlier this week, a human rights activist and lawyer, Razia Sultana, while representing NGOs at a Security Council meeting, called on the Council to refer sexual violence and other international crimes committed against the Rohingya to the ICC. Ms. Sultana, said that the forced deportation of more than 670,000 Rohigya’s from Myanmar is the “fastest growing refugee movement since the Rwanda genocide.” She stated that based on her own research, she had concluded that well over 300 Rohingya women and children, from 17 villages in the Rakhine state, had been raped by government troops.

Among the other entities that were put on the UN Secretary General’s blacklist of groups reported to have engaged in wide-spread sexual-violence are the Taliban and other anti-government groups in Afghanistan; armed groups in the Central African Republic; armed groups in Colombia (especially the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia and Clan del Golfo); pro-government and anti-government militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo; ISIL in Iraq; various militias in Libya; government forces and opposition armed groups in Mali; Al-Shabab in Somalia; rival ethnic groups in South Sudan; and groups in Syria, Yemen and Sudan.

New ICC Registrar takes over

Herman von Hebel, the now ex-ICC Registrar, published his end of mandate report at the end of his five years in office on 16 April 2018. The Registrar is responsible for the non-judicial aspects of the administration of the Court, and as such supports the Court so it can conduct fair and effective public proceedings. This includes general court management, security, public information, court records, translation and interpretation, counsel support, support for victims to participate in proceedings and apply for reparations, and much more.

Von Hebel, while reflecting on his main achievements in office, stated that, “What is common to all the achievements outlined in this report is that they are grounded in three fundamental goals, which have guided me throughout my mandate: regaining the trust of all Registry clients, improving the quality of the Registry's work, and implementing measures on savings and efficiencies. I hope that the report may be useful to all those interested in the work of the International Criminal Court in general and of the Registry in particular, including those whose turn it is to lead the Court and the Registry now and into the future."

The Report highlights eight areas that von Hebel prioritised during his time in office. These include, the one-Court principle; witness support and protection; legal office; external relations and field operations; communications, outreach and victims; staff welfare and human resources; efficiencies and effectiveness against increased workload; and the reorganisation of the Registry.

On 17 April 2018, the new Registrar, Peter Lewis, was sworn-in to office during a public ceremony presided over by the ICC President, Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, with the President of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP), Mr O-Gon Kwon, serving as witness.

Welcoming the new Registrar, ICC President, Eboe-Osuji, said, “Mr Lewis joins the Court to complete a change in leadership in the Presidency and the Registry. This change marks a shift of focus for the Court, a focus on the need to revitalise reflection on the ICC's value to humanity. I call upon all to join this reflection. I must also take this opportunity to pay tribute, and express our gratitude, to all the Staff of the Court. Often, their work is largely unseen and unsung in the roles they play. But, much like the bones beneath the skin and the muscle, the structure cannot stand, let alone move well or move at all, without them."

The public ceremony was held at the the seat of the Court in The Hague, The Netherlands. 

ICC Prosecutor attends the Stockholm Forum on Gender Equality

The ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, attended the Stockholm Forum on Gender Equality on 17 April 2018. The Forum aims to mobilise civil society, governments, private sector and academia from all over the world to intensify efforts for a gender equal world.

Speaking at a high-level ministerial roundtable hosted by Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, H.E. Ms Margot Wallström, on how to promote human security for women and girls around the world, Prosecutor Bensouda stated that, “In all the situations under investigation before the ICC, serious crimes are perpetrated against women and girls. My Office devotes special attention to the situation of women and children in conflict, by ensuring that atrocity crimes against them - genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity - are effectively investigated and prosecuted."

She also highlighted the Office of the Prosecutor’s policy on the prioritising the prosecution of sexual and gender-based crimes, through the office’s Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes. This was the first policy document that she issued following her appointment as the Prosecutor of the ICC. In addition, Bensouda noted that in November 2016, she launched a Policy on Children, to enable her Office to more robustly address international crimes against and affecting children, and to turn a spotlight on the plight of over 230 million children around the world today who suffer the horrors of war and conflict.

While in Sweden, the ICC Prosecutor also met with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, and other senior officials and heads of agencies, expressing her appreciation for Sweden’s continued support for the ICC’s work.

ICC Investigations

Mali: The UN Security Council has condemned an attack against peacekeepers in Timbuktu on 14th April, which left one peacekeeper from Burkina Faso dead. Seven peacekeepers, seven French soldiers and two Malian civilians were also injured in the attack. The attack was carried out on the housing camps of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and a French military operation, by attackers who were disguised as UN Peacekeepers.

The UN Security Council is calling on the political leaders in Mali to ensure accountability for those responsible. The UN Secretary General conveyed his condolences to the Government of Burkina Faso and to the family of the fallen peacekeeper.

DRC: Donors met at an event in Geneva to raise around $1.7 billion to help curb the humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The UN had stated earlier in the year that $1.68 billion was needed to help it assist around 10.5 million people in the country that will need the most help in 2018. Of the major donors, the European Commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis  management, pledged €77 million ($95 million) of EU aid inside the DRC for the year. However, the event was boycotted by the DRC government, displeased with the negative image that this could bring of the country.

Ida Sawyer, Human Rights Watch’s Central Africa Director, criticised the DRC government’s move and accused it of “putting its own short-term interests over the well-being of the Congolese people.” She explains that the DRC is one of the world’s largest resources of cobalt, and other minerals, and worries that the donor-pledging conference could put-off potential investors from investing in the country.

Ongwen Case: The Prosecution in the Ongwen case presented one of its three mental health experts to assess Ongwen’s mental health during the period of the charges against him. Catherine Abbo, who specialized in child and adolescent psychiatry and is currently a senior lecturer in the department of psychiatry at Uganda’s Makerere University, told the Court that Ongwen did not have a mental illness between 2002 and 2005, which is the period that covers the charges against him. Abbo based her report on material provided to her by the Prosecution, including reports of two mental health experts hired by the Defence and a report by a court-appointed expert, Joop T.V. M. de Jong; she did not get to interview Ongwen before she wrote her report.


Preliminary Examinations

Philippines: President Duterte has threatened to arrest the ICC Prosecutor if she attempts conduct activities in the Philippines. This comes amid a recent flurry of moves by Duterte and the Philippines government, including instructions given to security forces not to cooperate with any international investigators, the Philippines government’s decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute, and Duterte’s statement that he would convince other ICC state parties to withdraw from the Rome Statute. The ICC Office of the Prosecutor and the Philippines Foreign Ministry have not commented on these latest developments.  


Israel/ Palestine: Civil society continue to condemn the use of lethal force against Palestinian protesters in Gaza. Amnesty called for an independent investigation into the “excessive” use of force which lead to the death of 26 Palestinians, including three children and one photojournalist. FIDH and EuroMed Rights have urged the EU to call on Israel to refrain from further use of lethal or excessive force against the protestors.

Colombia: A UN report on the situation of human rights in Colombia has called on the government to do more to protect rural communities that remain the target of violence in the aftermath of the country’s peace agreement between the Government and FARC rebels. The report states that the majority of violence, predominantly murders, is taking place in the areas where FARC militias are disarming, highlighting the almost 1000% increase in homicide rates of Mesetas in Meta, Magui Payán in Nariño and El Carmen in Norte de Santander when compared to 2017. Other factors such as the lack of appropriate health-care, deficiencies in education, endemic violence and multidimensional poverty rates higher than the national average were all cited as contributing to the climate of insecurity in the region.

Campaign for Global Justice

Chile/ICC: Eight Chilean legislators, led by Diputado Tucapel Jiménez, have requested the President of the Republic to send to Congress a Draft Law on Cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC), in compliance with Chile’s obligations as a State Party to the Rome Statute. Work on the draft agreement had begun on 23 September 2015, and the government reported that a draft bill was in its final stages of review on 28 April 2016.

On the occasion, Dip. Tucapel Jiménez said, ““Chile needs a Bill on Cooperation with the International Criminal Court as soon as possible. It is essential that Chile updates its legislation in light of the international reality and in favour of the International Criminal Court. The previous government already had a draft cooperation law, so we request that the current government sends it to Congress as soon as possible, to fully comply with the commitment of Chile to Articles 86 and 88 of the Rome Statute.”


STL: A training session on the conduct of International Criminal proceedings was held at the Beirut Bar Association (BBA). A total of thirty lawyers participated in the event, where training was conducted by Judge Keith Raynor, Crown Court of England and Wales and Vice President of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, and Jonas Nilssen, former senior legal officer at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The event was part of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s outreach efforts to engage with Lebanese legal professionals, academics, the civil society and others through lectures, conferences, roundtable discussions and trainings on topics related to the mandate of the Tribunal and international criminal justice.


LGBT rights/Middle East/North Africa: Human Rights Watch and the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE) have released a report, and an accompanying video series, examining how LGBT activism survives under severe constraints in the Middle East and North Africa. It also highlights creative approaches used in less repressive contexts to gain public support, identify government allies, and mainstream the rights of LGBT people in broader conversations about human rights and gender.

Around the World

United Kingdom/Humanitarian Intervention: The Government of the United Kingdom has released a policy document outlining what it believes to be the legal basis under which it carried out air strikes in Syria earlier this week. It cites the legal doctrine of humanitarian intervention as ruling the actions of the UK, and further clarified its interpretation of key points in the doctrine.

Syria Chemical Attacks: The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterrez, has called on the Security Council to set-up an independent panel to clarify and determine the perpetrators of the chemical attacks in Syria. He said that an absence of these facts could lead to uncertainty and further military escalation.