Categories
Elections Conflict Justice

ICC and Ivory Coast: A Step in the Right Direction – If More Are to Follow

Laurent Koudou Gbagbo in Courtroom I of the International Criminal Court, The Hague, Netherlands, Monday 5 December 2011. © ICC-CPI/AP Photo/Peter Dejong

I wonder how Laurent Gbagbo, sitting in his cell in the International Criminal Court’s (ICC’s) prison in Scheveningen, has reacted to the announcement of the result of Ivory Coast’s legislative elections on 15 December. Alassane Ouattara’s ruling coalition won an overwhelming majority in the national assembly – nearly 220 out of a total of 254 seats. These elections followed a period of violent upheaval in response to the disputed presidential elections of October 2010. They were, however, marked by low voter turnout (36.6%) and a boycott by the opposition.

But while Gbagbo may be satisfied with the effectiveness of the electoral boycott, he nevertheless ceases to have any direct influence within the political system of Ivory Coast. Instead, he can call himself the first former head of state to stand trial at the ICC. Gbagbo’s arrest warrant lists four charges of crimes against humanity, alleged to have occurred between 16 December 2010 and 12 April 2011.

The new chief prosecutor confirmed that the ICC became active in this case upon the request of the Ouattara government. Prior to the legislative elections Gbagbo was moved from house
arrest in the Ivory Coast to The Hague. The move reflects Gbagbo’s convictions that as long as he was still in the country, Ouattara would not be able to govern. Thus, said one of his defense lawyers in an interview, Gbagbo considered the indictment as politically motivated.

Categories
International Relations Security Human Rights

A Done Deal: Bensouda is Next ICC Prosecutor

Fatou Bensouda: the ICC’s next top Prosecutor. Photo: Wikimedia

According to Colum Lynch and a few other observers, current Deputy Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, will become the next top Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court.

Earlier this week, the ICC announced that the four short-listed candidates (Robert Petit of Canada; Andrew Cayley of the UK; Mohamed Chande Othman of Tanzania; and Fatou Bensouda of Gambia), had been whittled down to two.

It has become apparent that the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties wanted to avoid an election by deciding on a “consensus candidate.” Kevin Jon Heller, at Opinio Juris, suggested that the ICC likely conducted informal polling which made clear that a consensus had formed around having an African Prosecutor. Othman subsequently decided to step aside, allowing Bensouda to emerge as the sole candidate for the job. In all likelihood, Othman understood his chances were slim-to-none given that the African Union – which had decided to support an African candidate for Prosecutor – endorsed Bensouda.

Categories
Government

Indecision and Justice in Kenya

Always a Sword in Hand. photo: rafaelmarquez/flickr

As the International Criminal Court (ICC) starts an investigation into its most high-profile suspect yet – Libya’s “Brother Leader” Muammar Gaddafi – politicians in a far more democratic country, 2,700 miles to the southeast, are also looking to evade the long arm of the law.

Kenya became the 98th member of the International Criminal Court in March 2005, when it ratified the Rome Statute. Over the past three months, the ICC has issued Kenya with summonses for the ‘Ocampo Six’: six individuals, both in and out of government, deemed by Chief Prosecutor Louis Moreno Ocampo to be those most responsible for the post-electoral violence that unfolded in 2007-08, leaving an estimated 1,500 people dead.

Is it really necessary for the ICC to be involved? Could Kenya not prosecute those involved on a purely domestic level? Yes, it could: but only with an adequate institutional framework in place. The Rome Statute provides for the legal principle of complementarity; that is, legitimate local efforts at justice enjoy primacy over international efforts. Politicians in Nairobi, however, have botched various attempts to establish a local tribunal, or to reform their judicial system. Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara has spearheaded the campaign to establish a local tribunal that would meet international standards – in essence, removing the need for ICC involvement. A copy of his bill can be found here. Three attempts to pass the legislative text – February 2009, August 2009 and February 2011 – were, however, defeated as a result of parliamentary infighting.

Categories
Security Human Rights

Darfur: The Genocide Question

Burnt Huts in Darfur, Sudan, photo: Radio Nederland Wereldomroep/flickr

Back in November 2008, I wrote a commentary piece on the Darfur conflict for ISN Security Watch (Sudan: China is Key) with the phrase, “the incoming Obama administration can show its resolve to combat genocide.” I can no longer say with conviction that this loaded term is an appropriate description of what transpired in the region.

I have eschewed the label in my analytical reports ever since. All the same, the debate is an important one and warrants further scrutiny. It also highlights the intersection of politics and law in international criminal justice.

What transpired in Darfur, for the most part between 2003-2006, was certainly a grave humanitarian tragedy and an abhorrent counter-insurgency campaign, but did it amount to genocide?