International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Ntaganda Gets His Day in Court: Why This is a Monumental Trial

Nine years after he was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), Congolese military commander Bosco Ntaganda will go on trial on September 2, 2015. His is one of the most anticipated trials to be conducted by the court, due to the gravity and number of crimes he is accused of, as well as the long period he spent as a fugitive from justice—during which he lived openly in eastern Congo and allegedly continued to commit crimes.

The trial is expected to highlight the plight of child soldiers and set a precedent by being the first at the ICC where a commander will be charged with rape and sexual violence committed against child soldiers under his command.

Ntaganda will face five counts … Continue Reading

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In Guatemala, New Crisis Unfolds in the Shadow of Past Crimes

Protests in Guatemala against the current government’s alleged links to a corruption scandal gathered steam this weekend, with protesters calling for the lifting of President Otto Pérez Molina’s immunity. Meanwhile, another tale of immunity is playing out nearby, with former head of state Efraín Rios Montt given a date for the start of his new trial related to crimes committed more than a generation before Pérez Molina took office.

On August 27, a general strike brought Guatemala to a near stand-still. More than 100,000 people gathered at Guatemala City’s main square to demand Pérez Molina’s resignation, while similar protests broke out in cities and towns across the country. That night, during an interview broadcast on national radio, the president repeated his … Continue Reading

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Barasa Opens Second Challenge against ICC Arrest Warrant

Former Kenyan journalist Walter Osapiri Barasa has opened a second challenge against an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant issued in connection with bribery allegations involving witnesses in the case against Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and another former journalist, Joshua arap Sang.

In an application filed on Friday, Barasa is asking Pre-Trial Chamber II to revoke the arrest warrant against him because, among other reasons, if he is detained by the ICC he is likely to be in detention longer than any possible sentence he may get if convicted. Barasa, through his lawyer Nicholas Kaufman, has asked the pre-trial chamber to issue him a summons instead of an arrest warrant. He has pledged to honour such summons because he does … Continue Reading

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Court Orders Rios Montt and Rodriguez Sanchez Retrial to Begin in January 2016

On August 25, the high-risk court overseeing proceedings against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt and his then-head of military intelligence Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez ruled that a joint retrial of the men can proceed.  As a result of Rios Montt’s poor mental fitness, the trial, ordered to commence on January 11, 2016, is to be held behind closed doors.

By a majority decision, the three-judge panel found that Rios Montt lacks the mental capacity necessary to face a regular trial.  But the majority cited provisions of Guatemalan law that allow special procedures in such cases, including the appointment of a guardian to assume the defense, and conducting the trial behind closed doors. A trial under these conditions cannot result in criminal sanction, … Continue Reading

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Can the Ntaganda Trial Advance Accountability for Serious Violations Against Children in Armed Conflict?

Julia Freedson is the Director of Conflict Dynamics International’s Children and Armed Conflict Accountability Initiative.  The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Conflict Dynamics International or the Open Society Justice Initiative.

 Across the globe there is a broad failure to achieve accountability for serious violations against children in armed conflict (known as “CAC accountability”). More often than not, perpetrators of serious crimes against children remain unidentified and are not brought to justice. Such crimes include recruitment and use of children as soldiers, sexual violence, killing, maiming, and abduction of children. Even in cases where accountability programs exist, they often fail to achieve tangible outcomes that benefit children and their communities, and violations continue with impunity.

The upcoming trial … Continue Reading

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What Will Upheaval in Guatemalan Politics Mean for Grave Crimes Cases?

Another week of dramatic developments in Guatemala culminated in former Vice President Roxana Baldetti’s arrest on corruption charges and a request from the attorney general and UN-backed international investigators to impeach sitting President Otto Perez Molina.  Meanwhile, a legal complaint against the lead prosecutor in the Attorney General’s Human Rights Unit stalled when the judge in the case withdrew.  The legal and political outcomes from both sets of proceedings remain to be seen, but each holds potential to significantly influence the future of grave crimes prosecutions in Guatemala.

Corruption Probe Reaches the Top

On August 23, President Perez Molina addressed the nation to say that he had no intention of resigning from office.  The address and a late-night cabinet meeting followed a … Continue Reading

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Reconsidering Lubanga’s Sentence: Views from Ituri

The following commentary was written by Olivia Bueno of the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI), in consultation with Congolese activists. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of IRRI or of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

On August 21, 2015, the International Criminal Court (ICC) heard arguments about whether or not to release Thomas Lubanga, the first person to be convicted by the court. As required under Article 110 of the Rome Statute, the ICC will review Lubanga’s sentence now that two-thirds of it has been served. The prospect of Lubanga’s release has been met with reactions ranging from despair and frustration to satisfaction, depending on who you ask.

As this is the first hearing … Continue Reading

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Prosecution Asks Chamber to Order Libya to Surrender Gaddafi to the ICC

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) has asked Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to order Libya to refrain from executing Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, surrender him immediately to the ICC, and to report his death sentence to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

On July 28, 2015, the Tripoli Court of Appeal in Libya sentenced Gaddafi to death for his role in Libya’s 2011 uprising. There was international outrage following this verdict.

Libya held the trial against Gaddafi even though there is currently a case against him before the ICC on charges of murder and persecution as crimes against humanity. Libya failed to surrender Gaddafi to the ICC and continued with its own trial against him and 36 co-accused … Continue Reading

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Major Changes at the ICC: the Registry’s ReVision

The ICC is undergoing a major change this summer as the Registrar’s ReVision project results are implemented. The Registry will significantly change its organizational structure, and as many as 113 employees’ jobs will be affected. New Registry sections have been created and others abolished.

When Registrar Herman von Hebel spoke with IJ Monitor about the ReVision program last year, he said that his goal was to make a simpler and more logical organization, and one that operated as “one registry.” Significant changes include the creation of a Division on External Affairs and Field Operations, and the possible creation of two separate offices in the Registry for the defense and for victims.

The Assembly of States Parties’ (ASP) authorized the project in 2013 … Continue Reading

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Lubanga Pleads With ICC Judges for Early Release

Convicted Congolese political leader Thomas Lubanga has pleaded with International Criminal Court (ICC) judges to grant him early release, promising to promote reconciliation and announcing plans to do doctoral studies into the psycho-sociological determinants of conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Mr. Lubanga made the appeal before a panel of judges that will determine whether his 14-year prison sentence can be reduced. He states that throughout the 12 years he has been in detention, first in the DRC and then at the ICC, his thoughts have been with the people of the Ituri district, with whom he said he endured a painful history, beginning with a massacre in 1999.

“I offer my sincere apologies for all victims for the … Continue Reading

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