Monday, September 28, 2009
The President of Kenya has reportedly written to U.S. President Barack Obama to express displeasure at U.S. moves to punish Kenya for lack of action on government reforms, according to today's Financial Times. The paper says that Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Mwai Kibaki sent letters last week to 15 senior Kenya politicians and bureaucrats warning them that their future relationship with the United States would depend on their attitude to reform.
The Financial Times notes that refusing entrance to the OAS Delegation is "a move likely to further isolate the de facto government headed by Roberto Micheletti." The elected President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, has made his way back into the country and is currently enjoying the protection of the Embassy of Brazil. It seems that 65 of his family members, supporters, and journalists are also there in the Brazilian Embassy.
Today's New York Times has a longer version of the story. It also notes that the de facto Honduran government has given a 10-day deadline to Brazil to either grant political asylum to President Zelaya or "hand him over for trial on a catalog of charges including treason and abuse of authority." If Brazil does not comply, according to Carlos Lopez Contreras (foreign minister of the de facto government), then the Brazilian embassy "will lose its diplmatic status." The foreign minister said that "[a]s a courtesy, we are not planning to invade the place."
The Brazilian government discounted the threat to its embassy and the President of Brazil said that Brazil would not reply to "an ulitmatum from a government of coup-mongers."
Cuba’s Foreign Minister told the United Nations General Assembly today that it is still waiting for the global optimism generated by the new United States administration to be translated into action, calling for an end to the decades-long embargo against the Caribbean nation. With the election of President Barack Obama in the United States, “it seemed that a period of extreme aggressiveness, unilateralism and arrogance in the foreign policy in that country had come to an end and the infamous legacy of the George W. Bush regime had been sunk in repudiation,” Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla said at at the Assembly’s annual high-level debate.
In spite of Mr. Obama’s calls for change and dialogue, “time goes by and the speech does not seem to be supported by concrete facts,” the Cuban official said. “His speech does not coincide with reality.” The current U.S. authorities have displayed “uncertainty” in overcoming the “political and ideological trends” propagated by the previous administration, he noted.
“The detention and torture centre in the Guantanamo Naval Base – which usurps part of the Cuban territory – has not been shut down,” Mr. Rodríguez Parrilla said. “The occupation troops in Iraq have not withdrawn. The war in Afghanistan is expanding and is threatening other States.”
In April, the United States announced it was going to “abolish some of the most brutal actions taken by the George W. Bush administration” preventing contact between Cubans living in the United States and their relatives in Cuba. “These measures are a positive step, but they are extremely limited and insufficient,” the foreign minister stressed. Most importantly, the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba is still in place, he pointed out. “Should there be a true desire to move towards change, the US Government could authorize the export of Cuban goods and services to the United States and vice versa.”
Further, Mr. Obama could allow U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba, the only country in the world they cannot visit, Mr. Rodríguez Parrillo emphasized. “The U.S. blockade against Cuba is an act of unilateral aggression that should be unilaterally terminated,” he said, expressing his country’s wiliness to normalize relations with the United States.
A former Rwandan mayor, who had been on the run for eight years, went on trial today at a United Nations war crimes tribunal on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in the 1994 massacres in the small Central African nation.
Grégoire Ndahimana, former mayor of Kivumu and one of the last 13 indicted fugitives until his arrest in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last month, pleaded not guilty to all the charges arising from the 1994 genocide, when an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutu moderates were killed by Hutu militants, mainly by machete, during a period of less than 100 days.
Mr. Ndahimana, 57, a high-level figure in the rebel Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) in eastern DRC, was handed over last week to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda sitting in Arusha, Tanzania, a transfer facilitated by the UN Mission in DRC, known as MONUC. He was indicted in 2001 and had been on the run since then. He is charged with four counts of genocide, or alternatively complicity in genocide; conspiracy to commit genocide; and crimes against humanity for extermination. He is alleged to have been responsible for killing or causing serious bodily or mental harm to Tutsis in Kivumu, and to have planned the massacres of mostly ethnic Tutsis who sought refuge at Nyange Parish, in conjunctions with Father Athanase Seromba, already sentenced to 15 years in the first instance and to life imprisonment after dismissal of his appeal, and Fulgence Kayishema, who is still at large. Mr. Ndahimana was arrested on 10 August at Kachuga Camp in North Kivu during a combined operation by the ICTR, MONUC and DRC law enforcement agencies.
Also today, an ICTR Appeals Chamber heard oral arguments in the appeal lodged by Protais Zigiranyirazo and the prosecution against two 20-year and one 15-year concurrent jail sentences for genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity.
Mr. Zigiranyirazo, 71, a brother-in-law of late Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, alleges that the Trial Chamber committed numerous errors of law and fact, and asked the Appeals Chamber to overturn his convictions or alternatively reduce his sentence, while the prosecution is seeking a life sentence, or alternatively a total effective sentence greater than 20 years of imprisonment.
In all, 81 people have been indicted by the ICTR for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the Rwandan genocide.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Here is a link to the decision issued on September 25, 2009 by the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court in the case of Prosecutor v. Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, one of the cases on the Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Appellate Chamber affirmed the trial chamber's decision (of June 12, 2009), which had found that the case against Germain Katanga was admissible before the International Criminal Court.
Judge Daniel David Ntanda Nsereko, acting as Presiding Judge, gave a summary of the Appeals Chamber’s judgment in open court. A press release from the ICC summarizes his explanation of each of the five grounds for appeal and the Chamber’s ruling on each point:
- The Defence submitted that Trial Chamber II erred in considering that the challenge to admissibility was filed out of time and that it should have been filed prior to the “commencement of the trial”. The Appeals Chamber noted that the appellant himself acknowledged that he did not suffer any prejudice from the Trial Chamber’s allegedly erroneous interpretation of the Rome Statute, because the Trial Chamber decided to consider the merits of his admissibility challenge. Since there was no prejudice, the Appeals Chamber did not deem it necessary to consider the merits of this first ground of appeal.
- The Defence submitted that Trial Chamber II erred in considering that Pre-Trial Chamber I had determined the admissibility of the case on proper grounds, since the Prosecutor failed to disclose relevant documents concerning the attacks on Bogoro for which a warrant of arrest against Germain Katanga was requested. The Appeals Chamber considered that, were it to assess the merits of this second ground for appeal, it would, in effect, be assessing the correctness of the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision on the warrant of arrest, and not of the decision of the Trial Chamber, which was the subject of the appeal.
- The third and fourth grounds of appeal related to compliance with the principle of complementarity, under which priority is given to national systems. The ICC complements national criminal justice systems rather than replacing them. The Appeals Chamber found that the complementarity principle, as enshrined in the Statute, strikes a balance between safeguarding the primacy of domestic proceedings vis-à-vis the ICC, on the one hand, and, on the other, the goal of the Rome Statute to “put an end to impunity”. If States do not or cannot investigate and, where necessary, prosecute, the ICC must be able to intervene. The Appeals Chamber also noted that, at the time of the admissibility proceedings in the present case, there were no proceedings against Mr Katanga in the DRC, whether for the crimes with which he is charged before this Court, or for other alleged crimes. On the contrary, the DRC has made it clear that it wished for him to be prosecuted before the ICC.
- Under the fifth ground of appeal, the Defence for Mr Katanga disputed the fact that a State can decide whether or not it is willing to prosecute international crimes “without the need to justify or explain its unwillingness”. In the opinion of the Defence, that would lead to the accused being deprived of the right to effectively challenge the admissibility of the case based on a State being unable or unwilling to prosecute. However, the Appeals Chamber considered that this argument is misconceived, and held that whether or not a case is admissible is determined by the Court, which assesses the relevant facts against the criteria of article 17 of the Statute.
For these reasons, the Appeals Chamber upheld Trial Chamber II’s decision of 12 June, 2009 and dismissed the appeal.
Germain Katanga had been transferred to the Hague on October 17, 2007. He and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui allegedly jointly committed, through other persons, crimes against humanity (murder, sexual slavery, and rape) and war crimes (using children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities; intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities; wilful killing; destruction of property; sexual slavery; and rape).
The trial in the case of Prosecutor v. Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui is scheduled to commence on November 24, 2009.
In other ICC news, the court will hold a ceremony on October 1, 2009 to welcome the Czech Republic as a new State Party to the Rome Statute.