International Justice Day: Monitoring the Process

July 17 is World Day for International Criminal Justice, marking the anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute in 1998, which laid the foundations of the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC). To mark the event, here’s a quick look at the work that the Open Society Justice Initiative is doing to monitor the proceedings of both the ICC and the special tribunals set up for Sierra Leone and Cambodia.

A Judgment in the Charles Taylor Trial

Charles Taylor has been on trial at Special Court for Sierra Leone at The Hague since January 2008, and a judgment in the case is expected later this summer. The Justice Initiative has been tracking the trial since the beginning through the Charles Taylor Trial website, providing daily and weekly updates and analysis. The case has a number of dramatic turns, including defense lawyers storming out of the courtroom and the reopening of the prosecution case last summer to allow for the testimony of supermodel Naomi Campbell and Hollywood actress Mia Farrow.  Our site also became the focus of lively discussion between Liberians and others over the merits of the arguments and the evidence, helping, we hope, to bring events in The Hague back to those most affected.

The ICC’s First Trial Nears an End

On August 25 and 26, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and legal representatives of  victims will make their closing oral arguments before the ICC Trial Chamber in the case against Thomas Lubanga. Lubanga has been charged with the war crimes of conscripting, enlisting, and using child soldiers in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from July 2002 to December 2003.

The Justice Initiative has been monitoring the trial since January 2009 on our Lubanga Trial website, reporting daily in both French and English on the proceedings, which were not without controversy.  The trial was almost stayed indefinitely twice—once before it even began due to improper prosecution disclosure and the second when the prosecution refused to obey an order from the Trial Chamber to disclose an intermediary who had contact with prosecution witnesses.  In both instances the stay was lifted but not without casting serious doubt on whether the prosecutor will be able to get a conviction in the first case to be brought at the ICC.

When Witnesses Seek Asylum

Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui  have been on trial at the ICC since November 2009 for seven counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity stemming from an attack that occurred in a village in eastern DRC.  The first defense witness was called in March of this year. Three of them, who were brought to the trial from detention in the DRC, sought asylum in the Netherlands after their testimony implicated the government of the DRC in crimes.

The three, who have been granted the ability to seek asylum in the Netherlands, claim that they would be subject to persecution if they returned to the DRC.  Currently the witnesses remain in ICC custody, and they will only be returned to the DRC if their asylum claim is denied and protective measures ordered by the ICC are put into place.  As a novel issue to the ICC, it has large implications of how witnesses are handled in the future.  As the fate of the witnesses-turned-asylum-seekers now rests with the Dutch authorities, we will continue to follow the events on the Katanga-Ngudjolo Trial website.

Accountability for Post-Election Violence in Kenya

On June 3, 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber II at the ICC asked the parties to the proceedings in the Kenya situation to submit observations on the possibility of holding the confirmation hearings for the six Kenyan suspects in Kenya.  The confirmation of charges hearings are currently scheduled for September 1, 2011, in case against William Ruto, Henry Kosgey, and Joseph Arap Sang and September 21, 2011, in the case against Francis Muthaura, Uhuru Kenyatta, and Mohammed Hussein Ali.  (All indictments stem from the 2007-2008 post-election violence.) This is an unprecedented request by the Court and would be the first time ICC proceedings are held in a situation country.

While discussions about the proceedings are ongoing in The Hague, major judicial changes are happening locally in Kenya and have also been covered in the Justice Initiative’s Kenya Monitor. Most recently, we tracked the confirmation process of the Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice of Kenyan Supreme Court, appointments that were necessitated by the new Kenyan constitution. The Justice Initiative will continue to follow these and other judicial reform developments along with the ICC proceedings in the coming months.

The Trial of a Former Congolese Vice President

We also provide day-to-day monitoring in English and French  of the ICC trial of former Congolese vice president and militia leader Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, who is charged with command responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during a military coup in the Central African Republic (CAR).  He is the only person to be charged in the CAR investigation, and the Justice Initiative is the only organization following the trial daily.  Since beginning in November 2010, the prosecution is already over halfway through their case and the court has heard testimony from victims and experts alike, focusing largely on crimes of sexual violence committed against civilians.

Khmer Rouge Leaders Face Justice in Cambodia

In Cambodia, we have a full-time monitor observing the trials and proceedings for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), set up to provide justice for the some 1.7 million Cambodians killed during the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-1979.  View our regular updates and thematic reports on the ECCC. We are now engaged in following the trial of the surviving four former senior leaders, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary, and Ieng Thirith, and pushing for full investigations into five more former Khmer Rouge officials.

Follow developments on all the Open Society Justice Initiative trial monitoring sites on Twitter at @icctrialmonitor.

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