International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Legislator Proposes Blanket Amnesty for Grave Human Rights Violations in Guatemala

A bill was presented in the Guatemalan congress last week that would effectively establish a blanket amnesty for military officials accused of international crimes related to the internal armed conflict, in which an estimated 200,000 lives were lost. The bill seeks to alter the Law of National Reconciliation, which the Guatemalan congress passed in December 1996 in the context of the United Nations-brokered peace accords. That law provides for amnesty for political crimes, but not for international crimes such as genocide, torture, and other crimes against humanity.

The Proposed Legislation

On November 6, 2017, Congressman Fernando Linares Beltranena presented a proposal to reform Decree No. 145-1996, known as the Law of National Reconciliation. This law provides for amnesty for political crimes, but … Continue Reading

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ICC Judges Authorize Investigation Into Crimes in Burundi

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have authorized Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to initiate investigations into crimes committed in the central African country of Burundi over the last two and a half years.

Pre-Trial Chamber III first issued the authorization under seal on October 25. It was unveiled in a public redacted version yesterday, less than two weeks after Burundi’s withdrawal from the ICC on October 27. Judges determined that the court has jurisdiction over the crimes allegedly committed in that country while Burundi was a State Party, from December 1, 2004 through October 26, 2017.

Burundi fell into turmoil in April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government quelled a coup attempt that followed his decision to stand for a third term … Continue Reading

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Court Hears More Testimony on Killing of LRA Deputy Leader Otti

A former fighter with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that LRA leader Joseph Kony ordered a unit to kill his deputy, Vincent Otti.

The testimony of Witness P-233 is the second time during the trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former LRA commander, that a witness has provided details about the killing of Otti, which took place at least nine years ago.

Otti was named in the original ICC arrest warrant issued in 2005 for Kony, Ongwen, and two other LRA commanders, Raska Lukwiya and Okot Odiambo. The ICC has declared Lukwiya and Odiambo dead and terminated the cases against them.

Ongwen surrendered to Seleka rebels in the Central African Republic in January 2015, who handed him over … Continue Reading

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Witness Says Ugandan Army Aimed to Break LRA Morale by Targeting Key Leaders

A Ugandan army colonel told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the army’s aim during the conflict in northern Uganda was to break the morale of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) by targeting key leaders of the rebel group.

Colonel Joseph Balikuddembe told the court on Thursday that the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) did not study deeper how the LRA was organized as part of its counter-insurgency strategy.

Balikuddembe said on Thursday that he did not know some of the LRA commanders he met in 2006 were part of the LRA high command. He told the court he thought they were commanders with Dominic Ongwen, who at the time was commander of Sinia brigade.

Ongwen is on trial at the ICC for … Continue Reading

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Ugandan Army Colonel Says No One Could Convince Ongwen to Release Children in 2006

A Ugandan army colonel described to the International Criminal Court (ICC) the first time Dominic Ongwen, who is on trial at the court, came out of the bush. Ongwen, who was a commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), emerged from the bush as part of a ceasefire deal between the government and the LRA.

Colonel Joseph Balikuddembe told the court on Wednesday that Ongwen first sent an emissary with a letter written in Acholi addressed to him, asking for safe passage to an assembly point in southern Sudan, Owiny Kibul, which was part of the ceasefire deal.

Balikuddembe said this happened in 2006, possibly in November. He said at the time he was commander of the 601 brigade of the Uganda … Continue Reading

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Après le témoignage de M. Ntaganda, le procès s’est poursuivi majoritairement à huis clos

Les audiences du procès de Bosco Ntaganda qui se tient devant la Cour pénale internationale (CPI) se sont déroulées en majeure partie à huis clos depuis que l’accusé a conclu son témoignage pour sa propre défense. Le témoignage des trois personnes ayant déposé après M. Ntaganda, via un lien vidéo, a été entendu majoritairement à huis clos.

Lundi, le témoin D201, supposé être un ancien directeur d’une école du district d’Ituri, au Congo, a témoigné sur les taux de fréquentation des écoliers lors du conflit ethnique qui s’est déroulé dans la région en 2002 et 2003. On ignore dans quelle école le témoin a travaillé et quel est le lien entre son témoignage et les charges retenues à l’encontre de M. Ntaganda.

Plus tôt dans … Continue Reading

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After Ntaganda’s Testimony, Trial Proceeds Mostly in Closed Session

Hearings in the trial of Bosco Ntaganda at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have mostly proceeded in closed session since the accused concluded giving evidence in his own defense. The testimony of three individuals who have testified after Ntaganda, all of them via video link, has mostly been heard in closed session.

On Monday, Witness D201, believed to be a former head teacher in a school in Congo’s Ituri district, testified about students’ school attendance patterns during ethnic conflict in the region in 2002 and 2003. It is unclear what school the witness worked at and how his testimony related to the charges against Ntaganda.

Earlier on Monday, Witness D007 also testified, predominantly in closed session. This individual also appears to have … Continue Reading

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Witness Says He Was Caned 50 Times as a “Welcome” to the LRA

A former member of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that he and other abductees were each caned 50 times as a “welcome” to the rebel group.

Witness P-097 told the court on Tuesday that being caned was a regular punishment for failing to follow instructions or doing something a superior did not like. He gave the example of when he was caned 25 times for losing some cooking pans as he was crossing a river.

The witness was testifying in the trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former LRA commander. Ongwen has been charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in attacks on four camps for internally displaced people … Continue Reading

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Witness Talks of Seeing LRA Leader Being Possessed by Spirits

A former long-serving member of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that sessions during which the LRA leader said he was possessed by spirits helped bind young members to the rebel group.

Witness P-070 told the court on Monday that LRA leader Joseph Kony told members of the rebel group about several spirits he said would possess him. He said whenever Kony knew this was going to happen he would call together all members of the group to witness it and hear what the spirit had to say.

The witness said when Kony was possessed by a spirit his eyes turned red and he would have a vacant look. He said other times Kony would have a … Continue Reading

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Witness Says Kony Ordered Attacks on Teso in Retaliation for the Death of a Senior LRA Commander

A prosecution witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the top leadership of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) took no action against a brigade commander who disobeyed orders to go to the battlefront and another who released abducted civilians.

Witness P-070, a former LRA fighter, told the court on Friday the commander of the Gilva brigade was known as coward among the senior ranks of the LRA. The witness also said the commander of the Stockree brigade at times told his fighters not to kill civilians, released newly abducted civilians, and deliberately hid this from his superiors.

The witness was testifying in the trial of a former LRA commander Dominic Ongwen, who has been charged with 70 counts of war crimes … Continue Reading

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