Monthly News Update February 2019: International Criminal Court (ICC)

BY ISABELLA BANKS, RESEARCH ASSOCIATE PILPG-NL

IN THE PAST MONTH, THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT (ICC) RELEASED UPDATES ON THE CONDITIONAL RELEASE OF MR. GBAGBO AND MR. BLÉ GOUDÉ, THE ICC PROSECUTOR’S PARTICIPATION ON THE MUNICH SECURITY CONFERENCE, AND THE LAUNCH OF THE INTERNATIONAL GENDER CHAMPION NETWORK’S NEW HUB IN THE HAGUE.

ICC Appeals Chamber to Impose Conditions on Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé Upon Their Release Following Their Acquittal

On February 1, 2019, the ICC Appeals Chamber announced its unanimous decision to impose conditions on the release of Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Blé Goudé to a state (or states) willing to accept them and enforce these conditions. According to the ICC Press Release, the purpose of the imposed conditions is to “protect the integrity of the process.” The Appeals Chamber instructed ICC Registrar Peter Lewis to identify and enter into agreements with said state (or states) and make the necessary interim arrangements.

 This announcement came in the wake of the Trial Chamber I’s controversial decision in mid-January to grant the defense’s “no case to answer” motion to acquit Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Blé Goudé from all charges. Trial Chamber I initially found that there were no exceptional circumstances preventing the release of Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Blé Goudé from ICC detention following their acquittal.  The ICC Prosecutor appealed this decision, warning that the two men presented flight risks and that “their unconditional release might impact victims’ safety.”

 The acquittal – which came after a three-year trial relating to post-electoral violence in Cote d’Ivoire between 2010 and 2011 – prompted a wide range of reactions from ICC commentators. Some called it a serious “blow” for the Court that “rattles ICC foundations” while others argued that “the fairness of any criminal justice system must be judged by acquittals and not by convictions.” Regardless of whether or not this most recent acquittal reflects inadequacies of the Office of the Prosecutor, few dispute that the decision and the sensational publicity around it hurt the Court’s credibility. Dutch speakers can watch PILPG NL Director Marieke de Hoon’s comments on the decision on NPO Radio 1 here.

Statement of the ICC Prosecutor Following the Conditional Release of Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Blé Goudé 

Following the Feburary 1 decision of the Appeals Chamber, ICC Prosecutor stated that it was amenable to release with a set of conditions, the purpose of which was to ensure that Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Blé Goudé would be available before Court should the trial proceedings against them continue.

The ICC Prosecutor further noted that it would await a written decision by the Judges of Trial Chamber I detailing the legal reasons for the January 15 acquittal before deciding whether or not to exercise its right to appeal.

ICC Hosts Launch of International Gender Champions Network’s “Den Haag Hub”

On February 5, 2019, the ICC hosted the launch of the International Gender Champions  (IGC) Network’s new hub – an event organized by the Embassies of Canada and Switzerland to the Netherlands. The International Gender Champions is a leadership network that “brings together female and male decision-makers to break down gender barriers” and consists of over 200 active Champions worldwide. The purpose of the launch event was to discuss how Gender Champions and other advocates could put their commitment to gender equality into action in The Hague. The hub itself is intended to promote gender equality across organizations in The Hague and facilitate coordination with the IGC’s other chapters in Geneva, New York, Vienna, and Nairobi.

Last year, ICC President Chile Eboe-Osuji, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, and ICC Registrar Peter Lewis each joined the ICG leadership network and vowed to take concrete measures to strengthen gender equality within their respective organs at the Court. All three spoke at the February 5 launch event. As part of a panel discussion, Prosecutor Bensouda stated, “Equality for women is progress for all. Achieving gender parity is a collective responsibility.”  

ICC Prosecutor Participates in the Munich Security Conference

From February 15-17, 2019, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda attended Germany’s 55th Munich Security Conference. The purpose of the annual event is to “build trust and contribute to the peaceful resolution of conflicts by sustaining a continuous, curated, and informal dialogue within the international security community.” Prosecutor Bensouda’s attendance was intended to bring attention to accountability for atrocity crimes and build support for her Office.

In her statements at the conference, the ICC Prosecutor called for greater support for “institutions created to ensure a rules-based global order and accountability” and highlighted her Office’s preliminary investigation work, which have helped catalyze national proceedings in select states. Prosecutor Bensouda also participated in a solutions-oriented side event organized by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, a non-profit organization founded on behalf of survivors of the Armenian Genocide. 

Throughout the conference, Prosecutor Bensouda met with senior officials from a number of states, regional and international organizations, and civil society. Controversially among them was Rwandan President Paul Kagame, a known critic of the ICC. A photo of the pair shaking hands sparked a vigorous debate about the dissemination of photos of meetings between the ICC Prosecutor and world leaders on Mark Kersten’s blog, Justice in Conflict.