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By CHRISTINE LIM

In recognition of Genocide Prevention Month, the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the UN and United to End Genocide co-hosted a panel discussion on Monday with Magid Kabash of Sudan, Kambale Musavuli of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Stephen Lamony of Uganda.

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The panel, held at the Bohemian National Hall in Manhattan, discussed the role of the International Criminal Court, arrest warrants, and the importance of justice for victims of atrocity crimes. Discussants drove home the point that ending the culture of impunity by holding perpetrators accountable sets an important example for would-be leaders and backers of mass atrocities.

Tiina Intelmann, Ambassador of Estonia and President of the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC, said in her opening remarks that the global community must cooperate to end the culture of impunity. She hailed both the KONY 2012 campaign and the ICC’s recent conviction of former Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo as positive steps toward the ultimate goal of preventing mass atrocities.

Staci Alziebler-Perkins, NYC Genocide Prevention Coalition Convener and 2011 Carl Wilkens Fellow, shared the story of how she became an activist and said the ICC had many cases it should give more focus to, but the number of cases has been on the rise while funding has been decreasing.

Speaking in place of Hawa Abdallah Salih, who was ill and could not attend, Magid Kabash, a refugee and activist from Sudan with the Nuba Mountains International Association, gave the audience a firsthand account of the atrocities occuring in that region and implored the international community to act to protect the Nuba people from the Sudanese government.

The focus of the discussion, however, fell heavily on the atrocities, past and present, in the Congo. Kambale Musavuli of the Democratic Republic of Congo, human rights activist and national spokesperson for the Friends of the Congo, said he hoped “the ICC and international bodies support the UN Mapping Report [documenting “the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the DRC between March 1993 and June 2003”] and the ICJ ruling as it is an attempt to end the culture of impunity, to provide justice for the victims and create a framework for accountability for mass crimes committed and still being committed in the Congo.”

Stephen Lamony of Uganda, a human rights and victim’s rights advocate, as well as Situations Adviser & Outreach Liaison for Africa at the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, discussed the importance of arrest warrants.

Finally, in a pre-recorded video address, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor for the ICC, updated the audience on the court’s activity and urged them to give maximum exposure to ICC cases.

Ahmed Harun, governor of the Sudanese state of South Kordofan, has been caught on film giving orders to the Sudanese army that may be interpreted as encouraging troops to commit war crimes against rebels.

In the video, published by Al Jazeera yesterday, Harun, who has already been indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity in Darfur, instructs his soldiers to “take no prisoners” in a speech delivered just before his soldiers enter rebel territory.

Says Harun: “You must hand over the place clean. Swept, rubbed, crushed. Don’t bring them back alive. We have no space for them.”

According to United to End Genocide, civilians in South Kordofan are not only in immediate danger of suffering direct, undifferentiated violence simply by virtue of living there, but are also in danger of starvation due to the ongoing conflict’s interference with adequate farming and the delivery of food aid.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo called for Harun’s arrest, saying: “A commander has a responsibility to ensure that his troops are not violating the law. He cannot encourage them to commit crimes. ‘Take no prisoners’ means a crime against humanity or a war crime, because if the prisoner was a combatant it is a war crime and if the prisoner was a civilian it’s a crime against humanity.”

Advocate Eric Reeves, who has written extensively about Khartoum’s aerial military attacks on civilians throughout Sudan, recently wrote an article for the Sudan Tribune calling for pressure on Khartoum to accept the multilateral humanitarian access proposal put forth jointly by the African Union, the Arab League, and the United Nations.

On March 29, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution urging the government of Sudan to allow immediate and unrestricted humanitarian access to, among other regions, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The resolution also encourages the two Sudans to cease hostilities, return to negotiations, and allow any peaceful civilians in the area to voluntarily leave and take refuge somewhere safer.

Photo: ch16.org

International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced on October 15 that the ICC would investigate three to six individuals for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the post-November 2010 election violence in Côte d’Ivoire. Ocampo said no names would be published until ICC judges had approved his list of suspects. He also said investigations would include violence committed as early as 2002. The ICC prosecutor met with current Ivoirian president Alassane Ouattara, but not with former president Laurent Gbagbo, whose lawyers say he should be tried by his own country and not an international tribunal.

Ouattara says nobody in his government will be spared from investigation, though none of his allies or supporters have been arrested or investigated so far. Human Rights Watch said on October 6 that, “President Ouattara needs to swiftly match his soaring rhetoric on ending impunity with credible prosecutions of those in his camp who committed serious crimes.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa also commented on the need for impartial justice in a statement on September 27: “We are convinced that the perception that ‘victor’s justice’ is being applied would greatly undermine the reconciliation process.” In an October 18 article, the Daily Maverick of South Africa said that if impartial justice is not provided, “public distrust in the government will only deepen, this time with the south feeling aggrieved. Côte d’Ivoire will be back where it started again.”

Photo: usip.org

On October 3 the International Criminal Court approved an investigation by ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes in Côte d’Ivoire, Human Rights Watch said. The investigation centers on the events of last year’s disputed November presidential elections. On his impending investigation, Ocampo said, “from today, the Prosecution will collect evidence impartially and independently, and as soon as possible we will present our cases before the Judges, who will ultimately decide who should face trial. Our investigation should be part of national and international efforts to prevent future crimes in Côte d’Ivoire.” Ocampo has been ordered to return in a month to provide any additional information on crimes committed between 2002 and 2010.

The situation in Côte d’Ivoire has been under investigation by the ICC since 2003, when the Ivoirian government sent a letter to the ICC accepting its jurisdiction in accordance with article 12(3) of the Rome Statute. In December 2010 the newly elected president Alassane Ouattara sent a letter to the ICC accepting the Court’s jurisdiction, and sent another in May 2011 requesting an investigation into the crimes committed following the November 2010 elections. Ocampo requested authorization for said investigation on June 23 2011, a request that was approved on October 3 by the Pre-Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court.

The violence surrounding last year’s elections resulted in at least 3000 civilian casualties, 72 disappearances, and over 100 reported cases of rape. Radio Netherlands Worldwide said on October 3 that Ocampo had created a confidential list of suspects that he sent to the ICC judges along with his request for an investigation; Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Côte d’Ivoire, is thought to be on the list. This investigation will examine the actions of both Ouattara and Gbagbo supporters, both of whom are thought to have committed crimes against humanity during the post-election violence. This investigation is also to include crimes committed before the November 2010 elections, particularly after the 2002-2003 armed conflict and its aftermath.

Photo: unmultimedia.org

Sudan: U.S. calls for ceasefire and investigation of alleged war crimes

On Friday, the White House condemned the resumption of violence between Sudanese forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in South Kordofan state of Sudan. Calling for an immediate ceasefire and a political resolution to disputes between the two sides, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said attacks based on “ethnicity and political affiliation” could be considered war crimes or crimes against humanity. Carney asked for the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement to be respected and called on the UN to investigate the alleged crimes so perpetrators could be held accountable. According to the UN, airstrikes by Sudanese forces have been concentrated in disputed territories along the proposed north-south border, endangering civilians and preventing effective humanitarian aid. As many as 40,000 people have fled South Kordofan, an oil-producing state, and a report by the Sudan Democracy First Group accused Sudanese forces of pursuing genocide in South Kordofan.

Libya: Moreno-Ocampo says Qaddafi ordered rape of hundreds

International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said last week that the Qaddafi regime had raped hundreds of women “to spread fear of his regime and curb dissent.” The Christian Science Monitor said it was unclear exactly how many women had been raped, citing an NGO official who said the stigma of rape prevents many women from speaking out. Moreno-Ocampo said new evidence made it certain that Qaddafi himself ordered the rapes. The original ICC arrest warrants for Qaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, and Libyan security official Abdullah el-Sanussi, which cited crimes against humanity, did not include rape as a charge, but it may be added if the warrants are approved by the ICC judges. According to Moreno-Ocampo, the use of rape is a new tool of oppression for the Qaddafi regime. The Libyan government called the accusation “the same old nonsense.”

Côte d’Ivoire: UN investigation accuses both sides of crimes against humanity

A report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council (extract here) says that war crimes and crimes against humanity were perpetrated by both sides following a hotly contested election last year. Forces loyal both to former president Laurent Gbagbo and to his successor, Alassane Outtara, committed murder, rape, and torture “through generalised and systematic attacks against the population targeted on the basis of their assumed political sympathies,” the report said. Approximately 3,000 people are estimated to have been killed during the clashes. The UNHRC investigators voiced concern that forces loyal to Outtara are still committing violence, and asked the Ivorian government to carry out its own thorough investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Image: Africa Confidential

The International Criminal Court said it would investigate possible crimes against humanity in the upheavals that followed last year’s presidential election in Ivory Coast. ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said reasonable suspicion exists that serious crimes were committed in the West African state. Associated Press reported that rights groups believe both sides in the conflict may have committed crimes.

Tharcisse Karugarama, Rwanda’s justice minister, said the country’s gacaca grassroots courts, which have judged the bulk of people suspected of taking part in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, will officially close in December, Agence France-Presse reported. “Through gacaca we have been able to judge and resolve up to 1.4 million dossiers,” Karugarama said. “A great achievement that would have been impossible otherwise.”

Georgia’s parliament voted on Friday to recognize the 19th-century killings of ethnic Circassians by czarist Russia as genocide. The New York Times reported that the move was “likely to inflame tensions between the two countries,” as Moscow is extraordinarily sensitive to any anti-Russian movements in the North Caucasus. The vote has been hailed as historic, given that no other country has recognized the killing of Circassians as genocide. The statement passed on a vote of 95 to 0, with only one lawmaker speaking against it in debate.

Photo: Reuters

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