The Human Rights Watch Report on the Ongwen Case and Beyond: Who should represent the victims at the ICC?

 

The quality of the legal representation victims receive is essential to their meaningful and effective participation in ICC proceedings. 1Independent Panel of Experts, “Report on Victim Participation at the ICC”, July 2013, para. 12


ICC court decisions have repeatedly articulated the need to “ensure that the participation of the victims, through their legal representative, is as meaningful as possible, as opposed to purely symbolic.” 2Human Rights Watch, “Who Will Stand for Us? Victims’ Legal Representation at the ICC in the Ongwen Case and Beyond”, August 2017, p. 9 quoting Prosecutor v. Ruto and Sang, ICC-01/09-01/11-460, Decision on victims’ participation and representation, 3 October 2012, para. 59


Victims’ choice matters because it can be a way for the victims represented to develop confidence that the counsel who stands for them before the court will represent their views, in turn building confidence in the court process itself. 3Human Rights Watch, “Who Will Stand for Us? Victims’ Legal Representation at the ICC in the Ongwen Case and Beyond”, August 2017, p. 11

Last year, in a post following the establishment of the International Criminal Court Bar Association (ICCBA), I raised an issue which, quite evidently, was on the mind of many Counsel who are on the ICC List of Counsel: the Office of Public Counsel for Victims’ (OPCV) taking over the legal representation of victims, and the subordination of (and running roughshod over) Counsel selected by the victims to the OPCV.

Many Counsel representing, or on the List to represent, victims before the ICC perceived, rightly or wrongly, that they, along with their clients, were being disenfranchised. Perceptions count, especially if the purpose for introducing victims’ participation was to permit victims to present “their views and concerns”4Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (“Rome Statute”), Art. 68(3). and make the proceedings more relevant and meaningful for the victims. Continue reading “The Human Rights Watch Report on the Ongwen Case and Beyond: Who should represent the victims at the ICC?”

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Footnotes   [ + ]

THE END OF A READING AFFAIR: Cambodia Daily no more

 

Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?


King Henry II of England (1170) referring to Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury

The plane doors are about to close on my flight to Cambodia. When I land in Phnom Penh I will find this chaotic, noisy, and ever-expanding metropolis just as I left it a couple of months ago. Maybe some new construction projects will have started, maybe the traffic on a busy street has been re-routed for the building of yet another overpass aspiring to alleviate the out-of-control congestion, maybe another a trendy new coffee shop. As much as can ever be said of a teeming city of over two million people, everything will be pretty much the same. Except for one major difference: no more will I be able to wake up in the morning to get my daily fix of the news from The Cambodia Daily. Continue reading “THE END OF A READING AFFAIR: Cambodia Daily no more”

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Book review: A Boy in Winter, by Rachel Seiffert

 

Where the light shines strongest, there is always shadow. … It is something I tell myself, you see. … I say to myself: where there is light, there will be shadow as well. There will always be darkness, and we must accept this. … Still, I know how it is, [s]ometimes it helps me and sometimes it doesn’t. … I get my orders.  I read them over, and I find myself asking: Is this necessary? … Must we do this? … Must it be like this? … Must it really be like this?  I do not like this … I do not like it any more than you do, … It is cruel, yes? … Is that what you are thinking? … I don’t claim to understand it … I only try to endure. I don’t know the answer. Perhaps we must all find our way. … There will be a time, you know, when all this is over. The war, I mean. And all the cruelties. … It is what helps me most, this thought: that there will be a time after. When all the fighting – when all of this – is done with. … Perhaps that might help you. To know that all this is passing. For them [several hundred detained Jewish civilians] too.


A Boy in Winter, by Rachel Seiffert, Virago Press, 240 pages, £14.99/Pa (pp. 129-132)

If you have room to squeeze in one more book while still vacating or before getting too bogged down in the grind of being back at work, I highly recommend Rachel Seiffert’s A Boy in Winter. Continue reading “Book review: A Boy in Winter, by Rachel Seiffert”

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The Advisory Commission on Rakhine State Final Report: Towards a peaceful, fair and prosperous future for the people of Rakhine

 

Myanmar’s cultural diversity and pluralism deserve to be celebrated. A sense of identity, pride and belonging is important in all societies, particularly in times of rapid change. Yet, identity and ethnicity remain sensitive issues in Myanmar. The issue of citizenship rights remains a broad concern, and a major impediment to peace and prosperity in Rakhine.… Myanmar harbours the largest community of stateless people in the world….


Advisory Commission on Rakhine State Final Report (p. 26)

The Advisory Commission on Rakhine State (ACRS) chaired by former United Nations (UN) Secretary General Kofi A. Annan, issued its Final Report, appropriately subtitled, Towards a peaceful, fair and prosperous future for the people of Rakhine. To anyone interested in the situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, the plight of the Rohingya, the radicalization of some on all sides, and the danger this poses not just to Myanmar but to its neighbors and beyond, I highly recommend reading it. The ACRS Final Report has much to offer.

Last year I posted on some of Mr. Annan’s comments made shortly before the release of the ACRS’s Interim Report. I was critical of both Mr. Annan and State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi. I have also posted on the Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar, who according to credible sources and proof, have been on the receiving end of crimes against humanity committed, acquiesced, or tolerated by the Myanmar government (see here, here, and here). Indeed, like others, I have warned that these mass atrocities display the characteristics of a slow burning genocide in the making. Continue reading “The Advisory Commission on Rakhine State Final Report: Towards a peaceful, fair and prosperous future for the people of Rakhine”

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The Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli Indictment: Picking low-hanging fruit or chasing windmills

 

On 15 August 2017, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Libyan military commander Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli, accused of having committed or ordered 33 murders in Benghazi or surrounding areas from June 2016 to July 2017. The supporting evidence suggests that the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) has overwhelmingly met the rather low threshold of “reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court” (Article 58(1)(a) of the Rome Statute) in charging Al-Werfalli. Should this case to go to trial, Al-Werfalli will find that he has stacked the deck against himself: video footage of him conducting summary executions of captives published on social media.

As cases go, this is a prosecutor’s dream. For the OTP, this must have been one of those cases that is just too good to pass up. But is it? The 33 victims deserve justice, but is the ICC able to deliver it? And at what cost? Continue reading “The Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli Indictment: Picking low-hanging fruit or chasing windmills”

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The dark shadow of US political interference at the ECCC: no free lunch

On 11 August 2017, the Co-Investigating Judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) rendered their decision on the impact of the budgetary situation on Cases 003, 004, and 004/2. Last week I wrote about it, encouraging readers to review it. Analysis aside, nothing beats the original source, especially when it is well-reasoned and well-crafted.

So why the post? Well, for those who may not have the time or may not wish to get too much into the nitty-gritty of the comings and goings of the ECCC, there is one aspect of the decision that deserves scrutiny: the actual or perceived political interference in Case 003 by one of the major donors of the tribunal, the US.  Continue reading “The dark shadow of US political interference at the ECCC: no free lunch”

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The ECCC Co-Investigating Judges on ensuring respect for procedural safeguards in Cases 003, 004, and 004/2

It surely is common acquis among “civilized nations” in the meaning of Article 38(1)(d) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice by now that judges also have to ensure respect for the procedural safeguards in criminal proceedings.


ECCC Co-Investigating Judges (Combined Decision, para. 17)

If you practice international criminal law – no matter in which venue or capacity – the recent Decision handed down by the Co-Investigating Judges (CIJ) of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) dealing with the impact of the budgetary situation on Cases 003, 004, and 004/2 is worth reading. Sans hyperbole, it is impressive, illuminating, and instructive.

CIJ You Bunleng (l) and Michael Bohlander (r)

Ever since the CIJ requested the parties (Prosecution, Defence, and Civil Parties) and the ECCC Office of Administration (OA) to make submissions on the possibility of a permanent stay of the proceedings due to a lack of funding on 5 May 2017 (Request), there has been lots of drama in the form of mischaracterizations, disinformation, misunderstandings, and genuine concern, swirling around the ECCC (see here, here, here, here, and here). I doubt the drama will subside with this Decision, as it ought to – at least for the time being.  The CIJ have stirred up a hornet’s nest, deservedly so. Continue reading “The ECCC Co-Investigating Judges on ensuring respect for procedural safeguards in Cases 003, 004, and 004/2”

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Book Review: Scott Turow disappoints and affronts in Testimony

Few can match Scott Turow’s writing and storytelling abilities. Very few. Over the years he spoiled us with his prose, his canny insight, his attention to detail. His freshman work, One L, was a must-read for a generation of law students. Some of the courtroom scenes in Presumed Innocent are as riveting as they are authentic. And Identical, his last novel before his recently released Testimony, was a true masterpiece, capturing all the nuances of Greek and Greek-American culture.

So, with deep regret, I suggest that if you were looking to escape (or vacate as I put it) from the daily pressures with a good novel – especially one that may hit close to home – Turow’s Testimony is not one of them.  If you have yet to set off for the beach, pull it from your bag and grab something else (perhaps the new John Grisham novel, Camino Island) desist from buying it at the airport while waiting for your flight, and refrain from gifting it to a friend or colleague. Harsh warnings, but I think justifiable. Continue reading “Book Review: Scott Turow disappoints and affronts in Testimony”

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VACATIONING WITHOUT VACATING: an imperative for reflecting on the Blood Telegram

It is vacation time in Europe, where many of those working in the international(ized) tribunals and courts have taken off for the summer recess. One way of describing vacation is taking a leave of absence to do fun and enjoyable things such as visiting exciting places, laying on the beach, camping out, and so on. Another way to describe it is to vacate; to vacate from the grind at work, from the daily chores, from the pressures that come with being a responsible adult. More importantly, or should I say satisfying, vacationing is about vacating from thinking about matters that we, as members of our community, citizens of our states, and inhabitants of this planet, should care about. Continue reading “VACATIONING WITHOUT VACATING: an imperative for reflecting on the Blood Telegram”

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Taking the international out of justice:  An imaginary conversation on the ICC’s Decision on South Africa

A woman dressed in a traditional Sudanese thobe walks out of Courtroom I of the International Criminal Court on 6 July 2017, having heard the decision of Pre-Trial Chamber II on the Situation in Darfur, Sudan – In the Case of the Prosecutor v. Omar Ahmad Al-Bashir. Shaking her head slightly, she has a look of disbelief, visibly upset. She is a Darfur victim, having moved to the Netherlands several years ago. Next to her is a smartly dressed gentleman, obviously someone important – or at least his appearance would so suggest: gold-rimmed round glasses, bespoke summer suit, crisp white shirt, with a stylish Montblanc pen visibly displayed in the pocket of his contrasting vest, glimpses of his tastefully matching Montblanc cuff links and Orbis Terrarum pocket watch, casually knotted bow tie, holding a white Panama hat of definite high quality, and a mahogany handled umbrella – probably an affectation but then one can never be too prepared in The Hague no matter the time of the year.

Omar Ahmad Al-Bashir

Suddenly, without the slightest trace of ambivalence, the woman turns to the gentleman and asks: What just happened? I thought I heard the Judges find that South Africa failed to comply with its obligation to arrest Al-Bashir but then said there was no need to do anything about it? If that’s the case, what’s the point of all of this? I thought the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) referred Al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court (ICC)? If there is an arrest warrant out for him, how can he have immunity? And if South Africa signed on to the ICC, why is it not cooperating?  I don’t get all this stuff about South Africa having to consult with the ICC to figure out the obligations it agreed to under the Rome Statute.  Continue reading “Taking the international out of justice:  An imaginary conversation on the ICC’s Decision on South Africa”

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