The ICC: One Strongman’s tool is another Strongman’s annoyance

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has turned hypocrisy into an art form. One moment he is railing against the International Criminal Court (ICC) for having the temerity to investigate, charge, and try individuals from the African continent alleged to have committed crimes falling under the ICC’s jurisdiction, and the next he is asking the ICC Prosecutor to charge anyone he deems out of favor, such as the recently sacked Uganda Inspector General of Police, General Kale Kayihura.

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni decorating General Kale Kayihura

Ok, maybe I am being simplistic. Museveni is not against the ICC exercising its jurisdiction in Africa (including Uganda) over some alleged criminals. He just does not think the ICC (or any court for that matter) should have jurisdiction over the likes of him – a sitting head of state. Why should he? The rule of law only applies to those not in power. Continue reading “The ICC: One Strongman’s tool is another Strongman’s annoyance”


SCRUTINIZING DUTERTE’S EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS: What has taken ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda so long to act?

He is sick and tired of being accused. … He wants to be in court to put the prosecutor on the stand.

Harry Roque, Philippines Presidential Spokesperson

Finally. On 8 February 2018, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) would open a preliminary examination on the widely publicized allegations of extra-judicial killings ordered by President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, committed as part of his war on drugs.

Before I get to the finally, some context. Continue reading “SCRUTINIZING DUTERTE’S EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS: What has taken ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda so long to act?”


THE LIBYAN REFERRAL: Trojan Horse or Realpolitik Casualty

I once again repeat my call to Libya to take all necessary steps possible to immediately arrest and surrender Mr al-Werfalli to the ICC. I also repeat my call on all States, including members of the United Nations Security Council, to support Libya in facilitating Mr al-Werfalli’s arrest and surrender to the Court.

Only when perpetrators realise there will be serious consequences for their crimes can we hope to deter future crimes.

I am dismayed that Mr al-Werfalli appears to remain in a position of command, and allegedly continues to commit crimes with impunity, despite an official statement from the General Command of the Libyan National Army (“LNA”) in August 2017 that Mr al-Werfalli had been arrested and was under investigation by a military prosecutor. I once again call on General Khalifa Haftar, as commander of the LNA and superior of Mr al-Werfalli, to heed my previous call to the LNA to work with the Libyan authorities to enable the suspect’s immediate arrest and surrender to the ICC.

The appalling cycle of violence and impunity in Libya cannot be allowed to continue for the sake of the Libyan people and the security and stability of the country and the region.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, Statement 26 January 2018

The International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda was prompted to speak out and to once again solicit the assistance of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) concerning the situation in Libya. This time it was about the two car-bombings on 23 January 2018 detonated by unidentified persons outside the Baya’at Al-Radwan mosque in Benghazi, Libya that killed more than 34 civilians, including children, and wounded over 90 others, and a video surfacing the following day apparently showing Major Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli executing 10 persons in front of the Baya’at Al-Radwan mosque, purportedly in retaliation for the two car-bombings.

To appreciate Bensouda’s call for assistance from the UNSC, we must reflect back to 2011 when Libya was engulfed in a civil war. On 26 February 2011, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and consistent with Article 13(b) the Rome Statute, the UNSC passed Resolution 1970, calling on the ICC to investigate the mass atrocities and human rights abuses which occurred (and continue to occur) in Libya during and after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. In keeping with its obligations, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) has unhesitatingly abided – despite the lack of any appreciable assistance from the UNSC.  Continue reading “THE LIBYAN REFERRAL: Trojan Horse or Realpolitik Casualty”


Reflections on 2017: past is prologue

In 1788, Robert Burns, Scotland’s prodigious poet who is universally loved for his simple yet penetrating versus, penned the words to Auld Lang Syne – a song usually heard the world over on New Year’s Eve. Hard to find a Scot who does not know the words to and meaning of Auld Lang Syne (or the lines to most of Bobby Burns’ poems for that matter). But in case you have ever wondered, it basically means “a long time ago,” “days gone by,” or “for old times’ sake.”

In 1788 the Robert Burns sent the poem ‘Auld Lang Syne’ to the Scots Musical Museum, indicating that it was an ancient song but that he’d been the first to record it on paper. 1

The poem/song is about looking back at old memories and friendships, reminding us to cling to these special moments and bonds as we are about to forge ahead into the New Year. But it is not so much about not letting go, as opposed to not forgetting – about cherishing past friendships and the past.

Caught in the moment of singing along (or trying like the devil to remember the lines we have mechanically mumbled through in previous years) as we celebrate the coming of the New Year and make our soon-to-be unkept resolutions, we tend to unconsciously ignore the biddings of Auld Lang Syne to reflect on the year passed. Imprudently, we habitually delude ourselves into thinking that looking in the rearview mirror is a superfluous indulgence that risks impeding our desire (and perhaps necessity) of letting go of the past for the sake of moving on.

With time waiting for no one, we have already started pressing into 2018. Unquestionably, 2018 promises to be an interesting year – if for no other reason than because of 2017. Hard to predict what is in store over the next 12 months, though much like examining a treasure map or a crossword puzzle, reflecting on some of the events over the past 12 months provide us with abundant clues. Not intending to present a summary of world affairs (such as The Economist, Time Magazine, and others do every December), I will merely refer to some of the events I have posted on, primarily limited to international criminal law (ICL) matters. And for anyone interested in what I have posted in 2017, here is a chronological list.  You can also check the archives section of my blog. Continue reading “Reflections on 2017: past is prologue”


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To opt-out or to opt-in, that is the crime of aggression 

Confirms that … in the case of a state referral or proprio motu investigation the Court shall not exercise its jurisdiction regarding a crime of aggression when committed by a national or on the territory of a State Party that has not ratified or accepted these amendments.

Draft Resolution proposed by the Vice-Presidents of the Assembly Activation of the jurisdiction of the Court over the crime of aggression, ICC-ASP/16/L.10, 14 December 2017

On 14 December 2017, the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) activated by consensus the crime of aggression amendments adopted during the Kampala Review Conference in 2010. It had been agreed that the amendments would not be activated until at least 30 States Parties ratified the amendments and until the ASP decided to activate them.

The crime of aggression was already listed in the Rome Statute as the fourth crime when the States Parties signed on to it, but the International Criminal Court (ICC) would only exercise jurisdiction over this crime once a provision would be “adopted in accordance with articles 121 and 123 defining the crime and setting out the conditions under which the Court shall exercise jurisdiction with respect to this crime.” So, while the crime of aggression has been on the books, as it were, it was not defined, and the States Parties effectively provided themselves (their political leaders and military elite – the usual suspects in waging war) an escape clause. The adopted Draft Resolution is a manifestation of this escape clause. Continue reading “To opt-out or to opt-in, that is the crime of aggression “


The Common Code of Professional Conduct: flawed and hubristic – Part I

On Friday 10 November 2017, The Fifth International Meetings of the Defence adopted the so-called Common Code of Professional Conduct for all Counsel appearing before the International Criminal Tribunals (Common Code). Aside from being a non-binding document (I hesitate to call it a code since it is nothing of the kind), it is flawed and hubristic.  Indeed, it may be that everything you need to know about the arrogance of the document and its creators can be divined from the declaration that it is to be “referred to as the 2017 Nuremberg Code.”

By happenstance, I heard that the Association of Defence Counsel practising before the International Courts and Tribunals (ADC) was consulted on this initiative. Having a particular interest in professional responsibility and ethics, I reached out to get a copy of the Common Code.

The ADC – the first and without a doubt the most accomplished association of its kind – was not involved in the drafting of the Common Code. The ADC sent its members a copy of the “Proposed Code,” informing them that it received the draft relatively late in the process. After the ADC Executive Committee and Disciplinary Council made an initial assessment of the Proposed Code, and without circulating it to the ADC membership (for reasons that become obvious from the available correspondence and discussed below), it decided that the ADC could not sign the Proposed Code as presented. Continue reading “The Common Code of Professional Conduct: flawed and hubristic – Part I”


Burundi’s withdrawal from the ICC nixes ongoing OTP investigations: coming to grips with reality

A State shall not be discharged, by reason of its withdrawal, from the obligations arising from this Statute while it was a Party to the Statute, including any financial obligations which may have accrued. Its withdrawal shall not affect any cooperation with the Court in connection with criminal investigations and proceedings in relation to which the withdrawing State had a duty to cooperate and which were commenced prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective, nor shall it prejudice in any way the continued consideration of any matter which was already under consideration by the Court prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective.

Rome Statute, Article 127(2)

It was coming for some time. On 27 October 2017, Burundi became the first State Party to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). The reasons for Burundi’s withdrawal are not important, though not a mystery. Motivated by a desire to shut down an investigation and to avoid the potential of having the powerful and elite charged and dragged to The Hague to be tried, Burundi bid farewell to ceding its jurisdiction to the ICC to investigate and prosecute crimes falling under the Rome Statute – whenever Burundi (as other States Parties) refused or was incapable of doing so. Continue reading “Burundi’s withdrawal from the ICC nixes ongoing OTP investigations: coming to grips with reality”


ICC Prosecutor to UNSC on the situation in Libya: yes we can, but how can we? 

Despite these challenges, the announcement of the two arrest warrants in the last eight months – one for crimes committed during 2011 and the other for crimes perpetrated more recently – should clearly demonstrate that my Office continues to be fully engaged in Libya and is determined to contribute to achieving real progress towards a culture of accountability for crimes under the Rome Statute committed in Libya.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, Statement to the United Nations Security Council on the Situation in Libya, 8 November 2017

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda at the United Nations Security Council

On 8 November 2017, International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda delivered a speech before the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the situation in Libya.  Considering UNSC Resolution 1970, which referred the situation in Libya to the ICC Prosecutor, she offered an update, sprinkled with tidbits on international relations, state-building, and transitional justice. The speech should rate highly as a measured and balanced assessment of her office’s efforts in dealing with crimes associated with the situation in Libya. Perhaps, but considering other factors, is Madame Bensouda being irrationally exuberant in her expectations? Continue reading “ICC Prosecutor to UNSC on the situation in Libya: yes we can, but how can we? “


Bensouda’s Decision to Investigate Afghanistan: milestone or diversion

There has been lots of excitement and speculation since Madame Fatou Bensouda announced that after a “meticulous preliminary examination” she has decided to formally request the International Criminal Court (ICC) Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC) to grant her authorization to open an investigation concerning war crimes and crimes against humanity, which she believes have been committed “since 1 May 2003 on the territory of Afghanistan.” Her investigation would also cover “war crimes closely linked to the situation in Afghanistan allegedly committed since 1 July 2002 on the territory of other States Parties to the Rome Statute.”

Anyone following the news since the United States (US) went after the Taliban in Afghanistan, would be hard pressed not to have noticed the plethora of mass atrocities that have taken place in, around, and in relation to what has been characterized as the war on terror in Afghanistan and elsewhere. One would have also noticed the same sort of war crimes and crimes against humanity play out in Syria and Iraq. Whether a “meticulous” preliminary investigation that spanned over a decade was necessary to come to this rather obvious conclusion (at least for the sake of seeking authorization to investigate) is questionable. Unless, of course, the real target all along were US armed forces and operatives of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). And when you strip the bark off Madame Bensouda’s request to the PTC, that is what this seems to be all about. Continue reading “Bensouda’s Decision to Investigate Afghanistan: milestone or diversion”


Bensouda’s Folly: It depends upon what the meaning of the word “is” is

We would like to restate for the record the fact that the Office of the Prosecutor has not sought advice, communicated or collaborated with the former Prosecutor.

Fatou Bensouda1As quoted in Sven Becker and Dietmar Pieper, The Ocampo Affair: Current ICC Chief Prosecutor Weighed Down by Predecessor, Der Spiegel, 17 October 2017.

Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, has some explaining to do.

In my last post, I mused whether she would take the necessary action to get to the bottom of what is now being referred to as OcampogateLuis Moreno Ocampo’s potential illicit activities in his offshore companies and large transfer of funds through and to tax havens while acting as the first ICC Prosecutor, and the unusually lucrative consulting deal he struck with Libyan oil billionaire (and past Muammar Gaddafi associate) Hassan Tatanaki – for whom Moreno Ocampo condescended himself by inappropriately soliciting assistance and inside confidential information from ICC staff.

Madame Bensouda was quick to distance herself from her former boss, issuing a statement that she had no contact with him since he left the ICC. In doing so, she obviously wanted to shield herself from any Ocampogate blowback. Continue reading “Bensouda’s Folly: It depends upon what the meaning of the word “is” is”


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