International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Victims Ask ICC to Severely Punish Islamic Leader; Judgement Set for September 27

The victims in the trial of a former Malian Islamic leader at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have declined to accept his guilty plea or forgive him and instead they have asked judges to punish him severely.

Mayombo Kassongo told Trial Chamber VIII on Wednesday that the victims had suffered a deep loss when mausoleums of saints revered in the northern Mali city of Timbuktu were attacked and destroyed in mid-2012. Kassongo represents the victims in the trial of Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi.

Al Faqi is charged with a single war crime of completely or partially destroying … Continue Reading

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New Lawyers Appointed as Kwoyelo Pre-Trial Hearing is Adjourned to September

On Monday, August 15, the long awaited trial of former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Colonel Thomas Kwoyelo began with a pre-trial hearing presided over by Justice Susan Okalany, a judge of the High Court of Uganda. The hearing, however, had to be adjourned because the defense lawyers representing Kwoyelo did not show up in court. At the same hearing, the court also appointed two new lawyers and the prosecution team revealed that they would introduce a new count on sexual and gender based violence. This article presents a narrative of what transpired during the pre-trial hearing and a brief analysis of the major decisions taken.

The Pre-Trial in Gulu: A Case for Victim Participation

Kwoyelo’s case is being tried before the … Continue Reading

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Timbuktu Residents Protested the Destruction of Historic Buildings, Witness Says

A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) residents of the northern Mali city of Timbuktu protested when Islamic extremists brought down centuries-old mausoleums in 2012.

Witness P-431 told the court on Tuesday that the people of Timbuktu considered the mausoleums central to their identity, and they were proud of the listing of some of them on the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

“All people are proud of Timbuktu and its renown, as well as the role the city played in the history of Mali,” said Witness P-431.

When the mausoleums were attacked, Timbuktu residents “protested in the sense that it [the mausoleums] is their property,” said Witness P-431, who spoke in French with his testimony … Continue Reading

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Q&A with Stéphane Bourgon, Lawyer Representing Bosco Ntaganda: Part II

Stéphane Bourgon is the lead lawyer for Bosco Ntaganda, a former rebel leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who is facing 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC). For the second part of his interview, he spoke to International Justice Monitor about the need for trials at the ICC to be more open to the public and Ntaganda’s struggle to have his children visit him in The Hague.

Wakabi Wairagala (WW): Let’s talk about the defense case. How many witnesses are you intending to call and what is the evidence you’re going to present?

Stéphane Bourgon (SB): We have to wait and see where the prosecution will go … Continue Reading

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Al Faqi Pleads Guilty to War Crime Charge, Apologizes to Malians

Ahmed Al Faqi Al Mahdi told the International Criminal Court (ICC) he is guilty of the war crime of completely or partially destroying historic buildings in the northern Mali city of Timbuktu in 2012.

Al Faqi made this declaration on Monday, August 22, the opening day of his trial before Trial Chamber VIII. This is the first time an accused person has made a guilty plea before the ICC.

After pleading guilty to the single count of a war crime he is charged with, Al Faqi apologized to the inhabitants of Timbuktu and the citizens of Mali in general for attacking Mali’s cultural heritage. He also asked for their forgiveness.

“I’m really sorry, and I am really remorseful,” Al Faqi said in an … Continue Reading

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Q&A with Stéphane Bourgon, Lawyer Representing Bosco Ntaganda: Part I

Stéphane Bourgon is the lead lawyer for Bosco Ntaganda, a former rebel leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who is facing 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC). For the first part of this interview, he spoke to International Justice Monitor about the challenges the defense faced in preparing for the trial and recruiting investigators in DRC and contentious issues in the prosecution case so far.

Wairagala Wakabi (WW): At the start of the trial last September, you had a lot of challenges. You had a small team that was new to the case and you had a lot of evidence to study. Have you caught up now, … Continue Reading

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Lucas García, Former Head of the Military High Command, to be Charged in Molina Theissen Case

At a hearing on August 13 in the Molina Theissen enforced disappearance case, the Attorney General’s Office was prepared to present new charges against the four defendants in the case, all high-ranking military officials from the worst years of Guatemala’s internal conflict. Prosecutors also had a surprise: they intended to present a formal accusation against Benedicto Lucas García, the brother of former dictator Romeo Lucas García and head of the Military High Command (Estado Mayor del Ejércio) between 1978 and 1982. Lucas García is currently being prosecuted, along with seven other military officers, in the CREOMPAZ case. In this intermediate phase of the proceedings, the court will determine whether the case should proceed to trial.

However, the hearing was delayed because … Continue Reading

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Bemba Faces Rising Financial Burdens at the ICC

Jean-Pierre Bemba is facing difficulties in paying lawyers representing him against witness tampering charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) due to a refusal by an organ of the court to advance him sufficient resources to maintain his legal team. The court froze the Congolese businessman-turned-opposition leader’s assets eight years ago.

In an August 12 filing, defense lawyer Melinda Taylor says with effect from July 1, 2016, legal aid was cut off completely in the witness tampering trial, “even if the case entered into a possible appellate stage.” The defense has reached a point where “it has absolutely no funding,” said Taylor as she requested judges to order the court’s registry to advance legal aid to the accused on a provisional basis.

Meanwhile, … Continue Reading

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Trial of Malian Islamic Leader Opens on Monday

The trial of Ahmed Al Faqi Al Mahdi of Mali will bring with it several firsts for the International Criminal Court (ICC) when it opens next week.

Al Faqi is the first leader of a militant Islamic group to be tried at the ICC. His case is also the first time before the ICC that, as a main charge, someone is charged with the war crime of destroying cultural buildings.

The other first is that Al Faqi has indicated he intends to plead guilty, the first time an accused person before the ICC has given such an indication. Al Faqi stated his wish to plead guilty during the confirmation of charges hearing held on March 1.

Al Faqi, who was handed over to the ICC … Continue Reading

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Understanding the Principle of Complementarity in Côte d’Ivoire

This article was written by Traoré Drissa, a lawyer based in Abidjan and Vice President of the International Federation of the Human Rights League.

Strengthening national judicial systems is key to winning the fight against impunity and preventing the most serious crimes —genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. It is for this reason that the International Criminal Court (ICC) was created.

A booklet recently published by the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), The Handbook on Complementarity: An Introduction to the Role of National Courts and the ICC in Prosecuting International Crimes, helps professionals and those less experienced in international criminal law to understand the functions of the ICC, in particular its relationship to national courts in the fight against impunity.

The … Continue Reading

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