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Archive for February, 2010

VOA News, Feb 11 2010 Alan Boswell

The United States says it plans to help protect those set to testify before the International Criminal Court against top Kenyan officials implicated in the country’s 2008 political violence. The Court’s chief prosecutor has expressed concern that key witnesses are coming under harassment.

The U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, Stephen Rapp, told reporters in Nairobi that the United States would offer assistance in shielding witnesses from harm if a panel of judges authorizes ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo to precede with pre-trial investigations.

The ruling from the international court could come in the next few weeks.

Ambassador Rapp issued grim words of warning about Kenya’s future if those most responsible for the organized killings were not brought to justice.

“If there is not accountability for the violence of 2007, 2008, when the election cycle returns in 2012 it could happen again, and it could be worse,” Rapp said. “The blood of Kenyans would be spilled, the hopes for the future would be dashed, and it would affect the entire region.”

The diplomat would not give any specifics about what type of assistance the United States planned to offer, but suggested that re-location of the witnesses was a possibility.

Kenya has already passed into law the Witness Protection Act, but local human rights groups say that at least 22 Kenyans who had previously testified behind closed-door inquiries have reported harassment. A number have been forced into hiding, fearing for their lives. Some say the police themselves were complicit in the intimidation.

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Pre-Trial Chamber 8 Feb 2010

Pre-Trial Chamber I declines to confirm the charges against Bahar Idriss Abu Garda

Situation: Darfur, Sudan

Case: The Prosecutor v. Bahar Idriss Abu Garda

Today, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court issued a decision declining to confirm the charges in the case of The Prosecutor v. Bahar Idriss Abu Garda.

The Chamber was not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that Bahar Idriss Abu Garda could be held criminally responsible either as a direct or as an indirect co-perpetrator for the commission of the crimes with which he was charged by the Prosecution. Abu Garda was charged with three war crimes, namely violence to life, intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units and vehicles involved in a peacekeeping mission, and pillaging, allegedly committed during an attack carried out on 29 September, 2007, against the African Union Mission in Sudan (“AMIS”), a peace-keeping mission stationed at the Haskanita Military Group Site (“MGS Haskanita”), in the locality of Umm Kadada, North Darfur.

The Chamber stressed that the case was of sufficient gravity as the consequences of the attack had affected not only the AMIS personnel and their families, but also the local population as AMIS, involved in a peacekeeping mission, established under the auspices of the African Union, first suspended, and finally reduced its activities in the area. The Chamber also found that there were substantial grounds to believe that AMIS personnel and installations, material, units and vehicles stationed at the MGS Haskanita were entitled to protection given to civilians and to civilian objects under the international law of armed conflicts. The Chamber found, however, that the Prosecution’s allegations that Abu Garda participated in the alleged common plan to attack MGS Haskanita were not supported by sufficient evidence.

The Chamber’s decision was taken by unanimity, and one judge filed a separate opinion. The decision does not preclude the Prosecution from subsequently requesting the confirmation of the charges against Abu Garda if such request is supported by additional evidence. The Prosecution can also submit a request to Pre-Trial chamber I for leave to appeal the decision on the confirmation of charges.

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New York Times MARLISE SIMONS Feb 9 2010

International judges dismissed a war crimes case against a Sudanese rebel leader on Monday, saying there was not enough evidence to try him on charges that he played a key role in the killing of 12 African Union peacekeepers in Darfur in 2007. Bahr Idriss Abu Garda, a leader of the United Resistance Front, voluntarily traveled to theInternational Criminal Court in The Hague last year to attend hearings in the case. The court’s prosecutor had accused him and two others of organizing an attack in which about 1,000 rebels stormed a peacekeeper base in Darfur, and fled with equipment and vehicles.

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Angola Press

Washington Post

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Jurist, Andrea Bottorff, Feb 9 2010

The African Union (AU) [official website] on Monday called for a hybrid court of Sudanese and foreign judges to hear trials of individuals accused of war crimes in Darfur[JURIST news archive]. The AU Implementation Panel, led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki [ANC profile], renewed its request for the combined court a week after the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] issued a ruling to reconsider genocide charges against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [JURIST news archive]. The AU had issued a statement condemning the ICC decision and stressing the need for African participation [press release] in seeking justice in Sudan:

The African Union is confident that, with genuine support from the international community, the Sudanese people have the capacity to triumph over their long-standing divisions and accelerate the process of the pursuit of democracy and development. On its part the AU, which was the first to take the initiative and assume responsibility for peace and protection in Darfur, will remain actively engaged, as the crisis in Sudan is also Africa’s crisis; indeed, it profoundly affects the continent’s largest country at a critical moment in its national history, as well as its many neighbours and the continent as a whole. The African Union is convinced that the achievement of lasting peace, justice and reconciliation in Sudan requires Sudanese ownership and Africa’s leadership, with the full support of the international community.

Mbeki suggested that the hybrid court would help maintain Sudanese confidence [News24 report] in achieving justice for the people of Darfur.

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Bloomberg  Jason McLure, Feb 5 2010

The African Union said a decision by the International Criminal Court to review a decision not to charge Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir with genocide in the western region of Darfur may undermine peace in the country.

“The AU reiterates that the search for justice should be pursued in a manner not detrimental to the search for peace,” the 53-member nation group said in an e-mailed statement today. “The latest decision by the ICC runs in the opposite direction.”

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AFP Emmanuel GOUJON Feb 5 2010

ADDIS ABABA — The African Union on Friday said the International Criminal Court’s decision to consider adding genocide charges to an arrest warrant for President Omar el-Beshir harms Sudan’s peace process.

“The AU reiterates that the search for justice should be pursued in a manner not detrimental to the search for peace. The latest decision by the ICC runs in the opposite direction,” the pan-African body said in a statement.

An appeals chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday ordered a review of Beshir’s arrest warrant for alleged atrocities in the western Sudanese province of Darfur.

It directed judges to reconsider their decision omitting genocide from the warrant issued in March last year, saying they had made “an error in law”.

The African Union said the ICC’s decision comes at a sensitive time for Sudan — with elections due to be held in April and a referendum on self-determination for Southern Sudan set for January 2011.

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Appeals Chamber Judgment 3-2-2010

Al Bashir case: The Appeals Chamber directs Pre-Trial Chamber I to decide anew on the genocide charge

Case: The Prosecutor v. Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir

Situation: Darfur, Sudan

Today, 3 February, 2010, the Appeals Chamber rendered its judgment on the Prosecutor’s appeal, reversing, by unanimous decision, Pre-Trial Chamber I’s decision of 4 March, 2009, to the extent that Pre-Trial Chamber I decided not to issue a warrant of arrest in respect of the charge of genocide. The Appeals Chamber directed the Pre-Trial Chamber to decide anew whether or not the arrest warrant should be extended to cover the charge of genocide.

Judge Kourula, presiding judge on this appeal, delivered a summary of the judgment. The Appeals Chamber explained that it was not concerned with the question of whether Mr Omar Al Bashir is, or is not, responsible for the crime of genocide. Rather, the Appeals Chamber addressed a question of procedural law, namely whether the Pre-Trial Chamber applied the correct standard of proof when disposing of the Prosecutor’s application for an arrest warrant.

In its 4 March, 2009, decision, Pre-Trial Chamber I rejected the Prosecutor’s application in respect of genocide stating that it would issue an arrest warrant for genocide only if the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the Prosecutor’s evidence, based on “proof by inference”, was that there were reasonable grounds to believe in the existence of genocidal intent. The Appeals Chamber found that demanding that the existence of genocidal intent must be the only reasonable conclusion amounts to requiring the Prosecutor to disprove any other reasonable conclusions and to eliminate any reasonable doubt. The Appeals Chamber found this standard of proof to be too demanding at the arrest warrant stage, which is governed by article 58 of the Rome Statute. This amounted to an error of law.

Although the Appeals Chamber reversed the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision, the Appeals Chamber rejected the Prosecutor’s request to make a finding that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Omar Al Bashir acted with genocidal intent, as this is a matter to be determined in a new decision by the Pre-Trial Chamber, using the correct standard of proof.

Background information

Pre-Trial Chamber I issued, on 4 March, 2009, the “Decision on the Prosecution’s Application for a Warrant of Arrest against Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir”. In its decision, the Pre-Trial Chamber issued a warrant of arrest against Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir for crimes against humanity and war crimes, but rejected the Prosecutor’s application in respect of the crime of genocide.

On 6 July, 2009, the Prosecutor filed an appeal against this decision. The Appeals Chamber granted the Sudan Workers Trade Unions Federation and the Sudan International Defence Group leave to make submissions as amicus curiae. Eight victims were also authorised to present submissions to the Appeals Chamber.

The situation in Darfur was referred to the International Criminal Court by the United Nations Security Council’s resolution 1593, on 31 March, 2005. In this situation, three cases are being heard: The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Muhammad Harun (“Ahmad Harun”) and Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman (“Ali Kushayb”)The Prosecutor v. Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir; and The Prosecutor v. Bahar Idriss Abu Garda.

The International Criminal Court is the only permanent international court established with the mission to help put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, namely the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and thus to contribute to the prevention of such crimes.

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CNN International Feb 3 2010

Judges at the International Criminal Court ruled Wednesday that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir may be charged with genocide for his role in a five-year campaign of violence in western Sudan’s Darfur region.

Al-Bashir, who remains in office, has already been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo had the genocide charge on his original arrest warrant for al-Bashir, but the pre-trial judges left off the charge when they approved the warrant last March.

Moreno-Ocampo appealed in July, saying that the judges’ standard for adding the genocide charge was too high. The appellate court agreed with Moreno-Ocampo and ruled in his favor Wednesday.

The appeals judges said the pre-trial chamber had applied an “erroneous standard of proof” to the genocide charge.

The judges said they were not ruling on whether al-Bashir should be charged with genocide — only whether the charge could be added to the arrest warrant. They said it will be up to the pre-trial chamber to determine whether to add the charge to the warrant, which could take several weeks.

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Huffington Post

New York Times

Reuters

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