International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Death of a Middleman Thwarts Blood Diamonds Case

The illegal trade in “blood diamonds” smuggled from Sierra Leone helped fuel a brutal civil war that lasted from 1991 to 2002 and caused an estimated 50,000 deaths. But so far, no one has been held to account for creating the system that moved stones from hellish mines in eastern Sierra Leone to the world’s diamond markets. Regrettably, that prospect is now even less likely, following the sudden death in a Belgian jail on September 28 of Michel Desaedeleer.

Desaedeleer, an international businessman who held dual U.S. and Belgian nationality, was arrested in August last year on suspicion of involvement in the war crimes of pillage and inhumane treatment and complicity in enslavement as a crime against humanity, among other charges.

The … Continue Reading

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ICC Convicts Al Faqi of Single War Crime, Sentences Him to Nine Years in Prison

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has convicted former Malian Islamic leader Ahmed Al Faqi Al Mahdi of a single war crime of destroying historic and religious buildings in the northern Mali city of Timbuktu four years ago.

In a unanimous judgement made on Tuesday, Trial Chamber VIII sentenced Al Faqi to nine years in prison. Presiding Judge Raul C. Pangalangan said the chamber found that the guilty plea Al Faqi made in August this year was supported by the facts.

By sentencing Al Faqi to nine years imprisonment, the chamber was upholding the sentence range the prosecution, Al Faqi, and his lawyers had agreed to in a plea deal they all signed on February 25 this year. A redacted version of … Continue Reading

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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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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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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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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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Q&A With ICC Victims’ Lawyer Paolina Massidda on Challenges and Successes of Victims’ Participation and Delays in Making Reparations

Paolina Massidda is the Principal Counsel of the Office of the Public Counsel for Victims (OPCV) at the International Criminal Court (ICC). She spoke to the International Justice Monitor about how victims’ participation and representation has been shaped at the court since its first trial opened seven years ago and the challenges of representing thousands of victims in a single trial. Massidda also discussed why it has taken so long for the court to have clarity on the reparations that could be made to victims in trials that have been concluded and what happens to victims in cases, such as in the Kenyan situation, that have been terminated. 

Wairagala Wakabi (WW): The first case was concluded about four years ago in terms of … Continue Reading

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Nouveaux rebondissements dans l’affaire Habré : recours en appel de la défense et examen des demandes de réparation des victimes

Cet article a été écrit par El Hadji Alioune Seck, associé du programme de justice pénale internationale de TrustAfrica. Les opinions exprimées ci-dessous ne reflètent pas nécessairement les vues de l’Open Society Justice Initiative.

Le 30 mai 2016, les Chambres africaines extraordinaires au sein des tribunaux sénégalais (CAE) ont condamné à la réclusion à perpétuité l’ancien président tchadien Hissène Habré, reconnu coupable de crimes contre l’humanité, viol et esclavage sexuel commis entre 1982 et 1990 au Tchad. Cette décision tombe suite à un procès en première instance qui s’est officiellement ouvert à Dakar le 20 juillet 2015 pour connaitre son épilogue le 12 février 2016 avec les plaidoiries des avocats des deux parties et le réquisitoire du parquet.

Lors du prononcé du verdict, le juge G. Kam, Président de la Cour, avait également … Continue Reading

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New Developments in the Habré Case: Defense Appeal and Reparations under Examination

This guest post is written by El Hadji Alioune Seck, Program Associate with the International Criminal Justice Fund at TrustAfrica. The views expressed below do not necessarily reflect the views of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

On May 30, 2016, the Extraordinary African Chambers within the Senegalese Courts (EAC) sentenced former Chadian President Hissène Habré to life imprisonment. The court found him guilty of crimes against humanity, rape, and sexual slavery committed between 1982 and 1990 in Chad. This decision followed a trial that officially opened in Dakar on July, 20 2015 and came to an end on February 12, 2016 with submissions of final conclusions by both parties and the final indictment by the prosecutor.

While delivering the verdict, Presiding Judge Gustave G. Kam … Continue Reading

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Al Faqi Trial to Start on August 22

Trial judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) have ordered the trial of Malian Islamic rebel leader Ahmed al Faqi al Mahdi to start on August 22.

Al Faqi has been charged with a single war crime for completely or partially destroying historic buildings in the northern Mali city of Timbuktu. The charge covers the period June 30, 2012 to July 11, 2012 and nine mausoleums and the door to a mosque that were destroyed during that time.

The judges of Trial Chamber VIII said they chose August 22 to start al Faqi’s trial to allow the parties to make preparations for witnesses they intend to call to testify. The chamber also said in their June 1 decision that they chose the … Continue Reading

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