International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Liberian Jungle Jabbah Trial in Philadelphia: The Quest for Justice

On October 2, the trial of Mohammed Jabbateh, also known as “Jungle Jabbah,” a former United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO) commander during Liberia’s First Civil War, began in Philadelphia. He is accused of lying about his wartime actions on his US asylum claim in the late 1990s.

This will be the first time that victims will testify in a criminal trial about the First Liberian Civil War. The trial is also a unique and historical step by the US attorney’s office to present a war crimes case in a national courtroom.

If convicted, Jabbateh will face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

The US attorney stated, “This defendant allegedly committed unspeakable crimes in his home country, brutalizing numerous … Continue Reading

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The Jungle Jabbah Case: A Liberian Quest for Justice

The Liberian civil wars, which took place from 1989 to 1996 and 1999 to 2003, mark a dark chapter in human history. For over a decade, the country was destroyed by ethnically motivated fighting. Sexual violence was rampant and all armed groups relied heavily on child soldiers. Conservative estimates put the war-related death toll in the small coastal West African nation of four million people at 150,000.

On October 10, 2017, almost 15 years after the end of the civil war, Liberians will vote in historic elections. For the first time in post-war Liberia, current president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace Prize winner heavily backed by the international community, is not running for office. This means the first transfer of … Continue Reading


Victim Participation in The Special Tribunal for Lebanon Fuels Reflections on International Criminal Law and the Lebanese Justice System

On August 28, 2017, the Trial Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) began hearing the case of the victims in the Ayyash et al. trial. The accused are charged with conspiracy to commit a terrorist act for their alleged role in a February 14, 2005 bombing in Beirut that injured 226 people and killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others. The victims’ case is expected to continue until September 8, 2017 and present evidence of the harm suffered by the 72 victims participating in the trial.

This is the first time that an  international criminal law tribunal addresses the crime of terrorism, and therefore the first time that victims of terrorism will present their case before … Continue Reading

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ICC Issues €2.7 Million Reparations Order in Al Mahdi Case

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has ordered a former Malian Islamist leader to pay €2.7 million in reparations for the single war crime for which he was convicted: destruction or partial destruction of nine historic buildings and the door to a mosque in northern Mali five years ago.

Trial Chamber VIII made the reparation order on Thursday while recognizing that, at present, Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi is not capable of paying the reparations.

“The Chamber disagrees that Mr. Al Mahdi’s indigence has an impact on its reparations award. The Appeals Chamber has determined that it is an error to conclude that a convicted person’s indigence is relevant to whether he or she should be liable for any reparations awarded,” the chamber said, explaining … Continue Reading

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ICC Finds South Africa Did Not Fulfill Its Obligation to Arrest Sudan’s President but Declines to Refer Matter to Security Council

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has ruled South Africa failed to fulfill its obligations as member of the court when the government did not act on the ICC arrest warrants for Sudan’s president when he visited South Africa in 2015.

The three judges comprising Pre-Trial Chamber II unanimously decided on Thursday, July 6, not to refer the matter to either the United Nations Security Council or the ICC’s membership. Article 87 of the ICC’s founding law, the Rome Statute, provides for the court to refer a member state to the wider membership or the Security Council for not cooperating with the court.

The chamber was making a decision on the two-year old matter now because it decided to wait until a similar case before South … Continue Reading

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South Africa Tells ICC It Was Not Obliged to Arrest Sudanese President; Prosecution Disagrees

South Africa told the International Criminal Court (ICC) it did not have a duty to act on an ICC arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir because Sudan is not a member state of the ICC.

Dire Tladi argued further on Friday that as a member state of the ICC, South Africa could not be compelled to arrest a head of state of a country that is not a member of the ICC because that person enjoyed immunity under customary international law.

Tladi made submissions before Pre-Trial Chamber II on behalf of the government of South Africa. He is a special adviser to South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation.

He made his arguments during a hearing that Pre-Trial Chamber II had … Continue Reading

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ICC Chamber Excludes Victims from Bashir Cooperation Proceedings

On Friday, April 7, the International Criminal Court (ICC) will hold a hearing in the case against Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir, for the first time in seven years. Pre-Trial Chamber II will hear submissions on whether action should be taken against South Africa for failing to surrender President Bashir during his visit to that country in June 2015 for an African Union summit.

Notably absent from the hearing will be any representative of the victims of Bashir’s alleged crimes, although a small number of them have been granted status to participate in the case.

The role given to victims in ICC proceedings is often described as ground-breaking. Victims’ voices, so it is claimed, are what distinguish this court from previous international … Continue Reading

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Georgia – A Unique Case For The ICC

More than one year has passed since the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened an investigation into the situation in Georgia. The investigation is related to crimes allegedly committed in and around the breakaway region of South Ossetia during the course of the 2008 conflict with Russia.

A Unique Investigation

This is a big step for the court because it is the first time it will be investigating a conflict outside Africa. For almost thirteen years the ICC has been operating in eight African countries, thus acquiring a certain level of expertise in the region. However, the ICC has been strongly criticized for opening investigations only in Africa. While the trend has now been broken, this new development also brings up a big … Continue Reading

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Senior UN Human Rights Official Issues Stinging Rebuke to African States Withdrawing from ICC

The United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights has strongly rebuked African states wanting to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) while at the same time praising African nations for being strong supporters of the court during its formative stage.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights did not name any particular African country in his hard-hitting speech on Wednesday, but his statements come nearly one month after South Africa wrote to the United Nations Secretary-General to withdraw from the ICC. When South Africa began the process to withdraw from the ICC in late October, it became the first member state to do so.

The same week South Africa sent what it described as “instruments of withdrawal,” dated October 19, … Continue Reading


Witness Interference at the ICC: A Widespread Practice Across Virtually All Cases

All eyes of the international justice community will be on the 15th session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute (ASP) beginning today in The Hague. There is no doubt that one of the biggest issues States Parties must address is the recent withdrawal of three African countries from the International Criminal Court (ICC). While this reflects the larger political troubles the court faces, there are also significant internal challenges the ICC must address in relation to its ongoing investigations and trials.

The Open Society Justice Initiative has conducted research that suggests that witness interference has been alleged in nearly every case before the ICC. Actions aimed at interfering with witnesses and their testimony impede due process, undermine … Continue Reading

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