Domestic Prosecution of International Crime - Africa



There is no doubt that Africa is at the center of attention of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Court’s four successful convictions were all brought against African nationals and among the eleven on-going investigations only one is not on the African continent. This apparent selective bias has had an effect on the position of African governments towards the Court. In 2016, Burundi, South Africa and The Gambia notified their intention to withdraw from the ICC. Whereas Burundi went ahead with the plan in October 2017, South Africa and The Gambia rescinded their notifications.

But what about the domestic prosecution of international crimes within African states? This post looks at African States, the ICC, and the domestic prosecution of international crimes within Africa.

1. Africa and the ICC

While many African states were and are strong supporters of the creation of the ICC, several states developed opposite opinions in the past decade. Naldi and Magliveras argue that the African Union (AU) criticizes the abuse of jurisdiction by Western States, which is, according to the AU, selectively directed towards the African continent. In particular,he decision of the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber to issue an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Al-Bashir, who in the view of the AU enjoys immunity from prosecution, was the reason for the AU to object to the jurisdiction of the ICC and urge its member states not to cooperate with the Court’s arrest warrants. This could be observed in several situations where Al-Bashir visited African member states of the ICC, such as Malawi, without being arrested there. Also the recent acquittal of the suspect Bemba had a negative impact on the perceived legitimacy of the Court and leaves African states with many doubts concerning the capability of the Court to deliver justice.

Against this background, the AU has established the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR) in 2005. This court is often considered an alternative to the ICC, but does not have jurisdiction over international crimes, as its jurisdiction is limited to determining human rights issues. Also the yet to be established African Court of Justice and Human Rights will not be an appropriate alternative to the ICC. The Protocol on Amendments to the court’s statute provides heads of state or government immunity from prosecution in article 45Abis and the court would only have jurisdiction for crimes committed after its entry into force.

The critique by African states of the so-called “African Bias” remains an issue close to the ICC. During the last Assembly of States Parties in December 2018, a side event was organized to discuss ways to improve the relationship between the Court and the African continent.

2. Domestic Efforts   

Despite this seemingly declining trust in the ICC, more than 60% (33 out of 54 states) of all African states have ratified the ICC Rome Statute as can shown in the following table. The table and the accompanying chart also depict the incorporation of international crimes in domestic laws across African States.

Overview of the ICC Rome Statute Ratification Status and Codification of International Crimes among African States

The information is taken from a report by the Global Legal Research Center of The Law Library of Congress of the States. The report, published in November 2016, can be found  here .  G= Genocide, CAH= Crimes against Humanity, WC= War Crimes

The information is taken from a report by the Global Legal Research Center of The Law Library of Congress of the States. The report, published in November 2016, can be found here.

G= Genocide, CAH= Crimes against Humanity, WC= War Crimes

2.A. Codification of International Crimes

Screenshot 2019-05-14 at 16.52.23.png

Many African states have implemented provisions criminalizing international crimes, which is the most basic precondition to prosecute offenders on a domestic level. Some states, such as Mauritius, South Africa and Ghana have repeated verbatim the definition of the crimes in the Rome Statute and other states solely refer to the Rome Statute, such as Kenya and Uganda.

Where no direct reference is made, definitions are still more or less based on the Rome Statute. Ethiopia extended the definition of genocide to also include political groups and groups of color in article 269 of its criminal code, whereas the criminal code of Burkina Faso allows in article 16 for an ad hoc determination of the group while still stating the limited list of groups provided by the Rome Statute. Looking at crimes against humanity, Kenyan law refers to article 7 of the Rome Statute in its criminal code section 6(4) but adds as reference conventional international law and customary international law. In contrast, in Burundian law, article 196 of its criminal code  limits the scope of the crime by referring to the Rome Statute but adding the requirement that the crime is committed because the victim is a member of a “national, political, ethnic, racial or religious” group. Considering war crimes, many states, such as Uganda in its criminal code section 9(4), refer directly to the Geneva Conventions in addition to the Rome Statute. Thus, it can be seen that states do incorporate international crimes, but to a different scope and with differing definitions. However, as can be seen in the chart, more than half of the states in Africa have not criminalized international crimes sufficiently on a domestic level.

Some states such as Ethiopia, South Africa and Mauritania, criminalize the international crimes domestically despite the fact that they are not member states of the ICC (see table). This shows that non-ratifications of the Rome Statute does not equate to a reluctance to prosecute international crimes.  

2.B. Domestic Prosecution of International Crimes

In addition to including laws on the domestic level, several states have shown positive progress in the implementation of the laws. In Uganda, on March 11, the trial of the former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Thomas Kwoyelo, was continued at the High Court in Gulu, Uganda. Kwoyelo is facing 93 charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1995 and 2005. In Rwanda, in October 2018, a new penal code was introduced that penalizes institutions for their support in genocide or crimes against humanity. In October 2018, the inaugural session for the Special Criminal Court in the Central African Republic took place. The court’s jurisdiction covers genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed within the state. While this is not a purely domestic effort, it does present the state’s support in the prosecution of international crimes. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Military Tribunal of South Kivu sentenced the commander of a unit of the Congolese army to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity in November 2018 for having attacked villages in the Kalehe territory (South Kivu). Very recently a Rwandan man was arrested in the Netherlands based on an arrest warrant that was issued by Rwanda. After two Rwandan fugitives were already extradited to Rwanda in 2016 by Dutch authorities, this is the third case. The issuance of arrest warrants depicts the states effort in prosecuting the suspects of international crimes.

To conclude, while some African states are critical of the work of the ICC, the data show efforts in developing legal bases to prosecute the crimes domestically. Laws have been drafted and trials commenced, but many states do not have any legal provisions and the general rejection of waiving immunity for international crimes runs counter to the goal of bringing justice to the victims, as leaders of states are in many cases the most responsible ones for the commission of atrocities. The continent is far from the goal to ensure accountability of perpetrators of international crimes reliably and consistently, but several states have taken steps in the right direction.

Monthly News Update: Southern Cameroons - April 2019


This post collects updates from the past months concerning relevant developments in Southern Cameroon. The information is drawn from local and international online sources.


Kamto and Michelle Ndoki Return To Court for Habeas Corpus Hearing

According to a local newspaper, the leader of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, Maurice Kamto, returned to court today where his appeal for bail was heard at the Appeal Court of the Centre Region. The case was adjourned last week after a member of the panel of judges failed to attend the hearing. Kamto appeared in court alongside his allies, Christian Penda Ekoka, Albert Dzongang, Paul Eric Kingue, Several Abe aka Valsero, Celestin Djamen and Prof Alain Fogue. Barrister Michelle Ndoki also appeared before judges at Mfoundi High Court where her lawyers pleaded for her immediate release. [April 2, 2019]

Mancho Bibixy’s Detention Reviewed

On April 4, 2019, the same newspaper reported that the trial and detention of Anglophone activist Tse Mancho Bibxy was being reviewed by the Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC). A Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) said it initiated a review of the case involving the newscaster, who was sentenced last May to fifteen years in prison by the Yaoundé Military Tribunal. The LRWC submissions highlighted violations of rights to assembly, the right to expression and the right to a fair which includes a trial before a civilian court, legal aid, and freedom from discriminatory prosecution. [April 3, 2019]

Ambazonia Leaders Return to Court

On April 8, 2019, uncertainty arose over the planned court session as the defense counsel insisted that the case could not go on at the Yaoundé military tribunal while an appeal was still pending at the Appeal Court of the Centre Region. The defense counsel said that they appealed the decision by the military tribunal to judge their clients in Yaoundé because their clients hold refugee and asylum seeker status.

Eventually, the case against the ten detained Ambazonia separatist leaders was adjourned until April 29, after the accused and their lawyers failed to appear in court. This was part of a deliberate attempt  to halt the proceedings at the military tribunal until a verdict is passed on their appeal at the Appeal Court of the Centre Region. [April 8, 2019]


Artist Longue Longue Released by Government

After being arrested by security forces in Doula earlier this month, outspoken artist Longkana Ango Simon has been released. Mr. Simon was  arrested after posting a controversial video on social media criticising the Biya regime for jailing the leader of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, Maurice Kamto. In the video, Mr. Simon claimed that the detained leader had won the October 7, 2018 Presidential Election. [April 4, 2019]

Arrested Pro Kamto Supporters Freed

Eighteen supporters of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, who were previously arrested, have been released. They were released on Tuesday of April 9, 2019 after spending hours in questioning at Central Police Station. A spokesperson of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement said they had been charged with illegal gathering, illegal protests, rebellion, and disturbing public order. However, it is not clear whether these charges have been dropped. [April 10, 2019]

Brother of the National Chairman of the Social Democratic Front kidnapped

According to several sources, Kingsley Azeh Ndi was kidnapped alongside two workers on Friday, April 19, 2019 while he was at the ranch of his brother Ni John Fru Ndi. This was not the first time Kingsley Azeh Ndi or a member of the Social Democratic Front had been kidnapped, as John Fru Ndi’s family has been the subject of numerous attacks. Last year, the sister of the Chairman was kidnapped by armed men and only later released.he SDF chieftain has also suffered losses from arson attacks. Reacting to the kidnapping of his brother, John Fru Ndi accused elites in Yaounde of creating armed groups in the Anglophone regions and prosper from the crisi. The kidnappers have demanded a six million Francs ransom. [April 22-23, 2019]


Switzerland Offers to Help Solve Anglophone Crisis

Swiss Ambassador to Cameroon, Pietro Lazzeri, met President Biya on Thursday, and later told the press that Switzerland would provide assistance to persons affected by the Anglophone crisis. “As a multicultural and pluri-linguistic country, Switzerland will continue to assist Cameroon through the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism (NCPBM),” Mr. Lazzeri said. He also said that his country will seek to help national actors find solutions to the conflict, while respecting the characteristics of Cameroon. [April 5, 2019]

Government Rejects Human Rights Watch Report

The Government of Cameroon reacted to the recent report of Human Rights Watch on the situation in the North West and South West regions of the country. The report was dismissed by Cameroon’s Minister of Communication Rene Emmanuel Sadi, who said that it represented a “systematic tendency to discredit public authorities” and stated that the Cameroonian government “categorically refutes these accusations made recklessly against Republican Forces engaged in a struggle to preserve the territorial integrity of the state and the protection of persons and property”. He added that the report shows an obvious bias in favour of the armed groups by downplaying their responsibility in atrocities committed. [April 3, 2019]

Human Rights Watch: Cameroon Clamps Down on Opposition

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released another report documenting another crackdown on the right to assemble, after he Cameroonian authorities banned a week of demonstrations planned by the opposition Cameroon Renaissance Movement party. HRW notes that since late 2016, the government has repeatedly blocked peaceful anti-government protests with force, and is responsible for the arbitrary arrest and detention of protesters. [April 8, 2019]

Human Rights Watch: Government Forces Attack Village

Central Africa Director at HRW, Lewis Mudge, said that “government forces are committing abuses against people living in the Anglophone areas of Cameroon”. According to a recent HRW report, Cameroonian soldiers, gendarmes, and members of the Rapid Intervention Battalion carried out a deadly attack on the North-West region village of Meluf on April 4, 2019. HRW reports that government forces killed five civilian men, including one with a mental disability, and wounded one woman. Three of the bodies were later found mutilated, including one that had been decapitated. [April 10, 2019]

European Parliament condemns human rights violations

The European Parliament adopted a Resolution on Thursday, April 18, 2019 taking stock of the human rights situations in Brunei, China and Cameroon. Members of the European Parliament condemned the use of abundant force, and have called for an independent and transparent investigation into the conduct of the police and security forces against protesters, along with the immediate release of all detainees held on politically motivated charges. They also want the Cameroons government to confirm that it will not seek the death penalty for political activists and protesters, recalling that such punishment has not been used in Cameroon since 1997. Parliament also urged the government in Cameroon to initiate a consensual review of the country’s electoral system, with the aim of ensuring a free, transparent and credible electoral process.

This Resolution was not received well in Cameroon. A local newspaper reported that the President of the National Assembly, followed the example of the Senate, by stressing that President Paul Biya has been taking measures and initiatives to calm and contain the situation in both regions. According to this report, the National Assembly is prepared to welcome a delegation from the European Union Parliament so that its members can judge  the extent of the violence perpetrated by armed gangs on the ground.

In contrast, Parliaments for Global Action welcomed this Resolution and called upon other international organizations to restore human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Cameroon. [April 18, 2019]

Monthly News Update: Domestic Prosecution of International Crimes - April 2019


This news update provides an overview of recent developments in the area of domestic prosecutions of international crimes. The information is drawn from different online news platforms.


Gambia | The cost of lying to Gambia’s Truth Commission

The truth commission in Gambia is different to others. It is not voluntary, so that perpetrators do not have a choice to appear, and lying to the Commission is punished. The Commission started operating on January 7, 2019 and has already revealed three false testimonies. One of the liars was dismissed from the army and the other one was called to the police station and charged with perjury. Obtaining the truth is crucial to the success of a truth commission, thus the introduction of consequences for lying is considered a positive strategy. [April 15, 2019]

Liberia | Monrovia witnesses pro-war crimes court protest

A peaceful protest was staged in Liberia by advocates requesting the establishment of a court for war and economic crimes. The advocates delivered a letter to the President’s Office asking him to initiate the creation of ad-hoc courts to hold those mentioned in the truth and reconciliation commission accountable. [April 6, 2019]

Rwanda | Rwandan rebel leader dies in Germany awaiting retrial

Ignace Murwanashyaka, who was president of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) during its operations in eastern DRC in 2008 and 2009, was convicted by a German court of leading a terrorist organisation in 2015. While awaiting retrial for alleged war crimes, the militia leader died in Germany. [April 18, 2019]

Sudan | Sudan crisis: Ex-President Omar al-Bashir moved to prison

Sudan's former President Omar al-Bashir, who was deposed in a military coup, was moved to Kobar maximum security prison. Reports say he has been detained at the presidential residence before. [April 17, 2019]

Sudan | Sudan investigating Bashir after large sums of cash found at home- source

Ousted President Omar al-Bashir is being investigated by Sudan’s public prosecutor on charges of money laundering and possession of large sums of foreign currency. His house was searched and more than $351,000 and six million euros ($6.75m), as well as five million Sudanese pounds ($104,837) were found. [April 20, 2019]


Bangladesh | War Crimes: ICT investigators find evidence against 9 Gaibandha men

The investigation agency of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) found evidence against nine Gaibandha men over their involvement in crimes committed during the Liberation War in 1971. They committed crimes including killing, rape, abduction, confinement and torture during the nine-month war. [March 24, 2019]

Bangladesh | War crimes: Accused gets bail on health grounds

The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) has granted bail to a suspect accused of having committed war crimes during the 1971 Liberation War. He was accused of his involvement in the killings of 2,700 people at the banks of Chitra River in Narail Sadar. The accused was given bail on three conditions, because of his medical condition and that he cannot move due to leg injuries caused by an accident. He has to present whenever the court summons him; he has to stay in contact with his relatives in Dhaka and he cannot contact the other witnesses of the case. [April 3, 2019]

Thailand & Malaysia | Human Traffickers Accused of 'Crimes Against Humanity' in Thailand and Malaysia

Human rights experts claim that a transnational criminal syndicate committed crimes against humanity in the form of trafficking Rohingya Muslims. The victims fled violence and persecution in Myanmar. Traffickers allegedly murdered, enslaved, imprisoned, tortured, raped, starved, and displacement their victims between 2012 to 2015, according to a joint investigation by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) and Bangkok-based rights group Fortify Rights. [March 25, 2019]


Bosnia | Sickness Delays Justice in Bosnian War Crimes Trials

During the 1992-5 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mico Kraljevic, the Mayor of Vlasenica, commanded a special squad of the Public Safety Station. He is now charged with participating in the persecution of the Bosniak community in Vlasenica in eastern Bosnia. The alleged crimes include unlawful detention in inhumane conditions, murder, torture, sexual abuse and forcible disappearances. [April 12, 2019]

Croatia | Convicted War Criminal Extradited to Croatia from Netherlands

A Dutch citizen, sentenced to 15 years in prison in absentia for war crimes in 1991, has been extradited to Zagreb. In 1994 the suspect was found guilty of war crimes against civilians in Siroka Kula by Gospic County Court, for his conduct in September and October 1991. [April 25, 2019]

European Union | EU Parliament calls for ‘reparations for crimes against humanity’ to Afro-Europeans

The European Parliament overwhelmingly approved a resolution addressing “structural racism” in Europe against Europeans of African descent. The resolution calls for “reparations for crimes against humanity during European colonialism.” [March 28, 2019]

France | Rwanda genocide: Macron orders probe of France's role

French President Macron appointed a panel of experts to investigate France's role in Rwanda's genocide. Macron grants them access to presidential, diplomatic, military and intelligence archives. [April 5, 2019]

Germany | German ISIS member faces war crime trial over Yazidi girl's murder 

A German court has just commenced a trial on a German woman accused of joining ISIS and committing war crimes. Her crimes include her support in the murder of a 5-year-old Yazidi girl she bought as a slave. A judge in the court read out the list of crimes she is accused of, which includes membership of a terrorist organization, weapons violation, murder and murder as a war crime. She might face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. [April 9, 2019]

Kosovo | Kosovo courts take war crimes cases over from EULEX

Domestic courts in Kosovo will now deal with alleged crimes committed by Serbs against Albanians, next to the war crimes committed by the ethnic Albanian KLA ("Kosovo Liberation Army"). The aim is to build up a Kosovo war crimes department operative. [March 31, 2019]

Kosovo | Kosovo Serb Ex-Policeman Faces Retrial for Attacking Civilians

Zoran Vukotic, a Serbian policeman, was charged for the mistreatment and torture of ethnic Albanian civilian prisoners at a jail in the Mitrovica area in 1999. The Court of Appeals in Pristina upheld his prison sentence. Under his guard civilian prisoners were subjected to illegal detention, inhumane treatment, torture and beatings. [April 5, 2019]

Kosovo | Kosovo to Penalise Denial of Serbian War Crimes

The denial of a crime can be considered a “double crime” according to the Deputy Prime Minister Enver Hoxhaj in Kosovo. Therefore, he proposed an initiative to criminalise those who deny crimes committed by Serbian forces during the independence war in the late 1990s, which was now approved by the government of Kosovo. [April 12, 2019]

Lithuania | Lithuania convicts Russians of war crimes under Soviet rule

A court in Lithuania has found a former Soviet defence minister guilty of war crimes. Marshal Dmitry Yazov was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison. Another 66 former Soviet military and KGB officials were given sentences between four and 14 years. Only two of them were present in the courtroom. Russia argues the trial in Lithuania is politically motivated and illegal. Lithuania is now an EU member state and had declared independence from the Soviet Union in March 1990. [March 27, 2019]

Romania | Ion Iliescu: Romania's ex-leader charged with crimes against humanity

 Romania's former President Ion Iliescu has been charged with crimes against humanity for his role in the aftermath of the violent revolt that toppled the communist regime in 1989. He is accused of spreading disinformation in TV appearances and statements, which increased the risk of "chaotic shooting". Since he took power, 862 people were killed. [April 8, 2019]

Sweden | Swedish court to make final ruling on Genocide convict Rukeratabaro

The Svea Court of Appeal in the Swedish capital Stockholm is expected to decide whether or not Genocide convict Theodore Rukeratabaro’s life sentence should be upheld. He was convicted for his role in the commission of the Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi. The ruling is set for April 29. [April 17, 2019]

Switzerland | Liberian rebel leader Alieu Kosiah to face Swiss trial

The Swiss Attorney General has indicted Liberian former rebel leader Alieu Kosiah for war crimes during the Liberian conflict. He is accused of having ordered murder and desecrated a corpse, raped a civilian, ordered their cruel treatment and recruited and employed child soldiers between 1993 and 1995. This is the first case brought to the Federal Criminal Court by the Office of the Attorney General under the principle of universal jurisdiction. [March 26, 2019]


Syria | Islamic State group: Syria's Kurds call for international tribunal

The Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria called for the creation of an international tribunal to try suspected members of the Islamic State (IS) group. The region is struggling to cope with the thousands who emerged from the last IS enclave of Baghuz, which was captured by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). [March 26, 2019]

United Arab Emirates | UAE: Eight Lebanese Face Unfair Trial

Emirati authorities detained eight Lebanese nationals for terrorism suspicion. The suspects were held for more than a year without charge in an unknown location, ill-treated, and denied their due process rights, according to Human Rights Watch. Their trial began on February 13, 2019 and continues to be marred with violations. [March 25, 2019]


United States | Federal jury convicts Rwandan man accused of lying about role in 1994 genocide

A federal jury convicted a Rwandan man for rapes and murders during the Rwandan genocide. He attempted to obtain asylum in the United States by denying his conduct. He was found guilty of five counts of perjury and fraud. [April 5, 2019] 

United States | Prosecutors celebrate victory after ruling in Gallagher war crimes case

The military judge ruled that information retrieved from the cell phones of the accused Edward Gallagher can be used as evidence by the prosecution. Gallagher is suspected of having stabbed to death a seriously wounded and unarmed Islamic State prisoner of war during a 2017 deployment to Iraq. [April 20, 2019]

United States | Sri Lankans Accuse Him of Wartime Atrocities. California May Decide.

Despite being successful to evade accusations of crimes against humanity for being the commander of military actions that lead to thousands of deaths, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was captured in Los Angeles based on accusations of murdering a journalist and torturing an ethnic Tamil who had Canadian citizenship. The lawsuit brought forward in California is considered advantageous against the background that opening criminal trials in Sri Lanka is politically impossible due to the accused influence over the domestic institutions. [April 19, 2019]

Canada | Refugee claimant, in Canada since 2015, complicit in ISIS crimes against humanity, tribunal says

A mechanic who came to Canada in 2015 has been found complicit in crimes against humanity for repairing vehicles for the so-called Islamic State. Before arriving in Canada and claiming refugee status, the Lebanese national made several trips to Syria to work on ISIS military vehicles and also supervised other ISIS mechanics. He was ruled to not be eligible for refugee status, but it is unknown if he was detained or deported subsequently. [April 18, 2019]


Colombia | Colombia's lower house rejects Duque's changes to peace tribunal

Colombia's lower house has rejected President Ivan Duque's suggested modifications to Colombia’s transitional justice system, one of which was the exclusion of sexual crimes from the tribunal’s jurisdiction. The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) tribunal was established to try former rebels and military officials for war crimes. The lower house voted 110-44 to turn down the suggested changes. [April 9, 2019]

Monthly News Update: International Criminal Court - April 2019


In the past month, the International Criminal Court (ICC) released updates regarding four cases, two official visits, two statements of the ICC Prosecutor, and one publication. Most controversial among them was Pre-Trial Chamber II’s decision to reject the Prosecutor’s 2017 request to open an investigation in Afghanistan.


Libya | ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I Confirms Saif-Al-Islam Case is Admissible Before the ICC

On April 5 2019, ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I rejected by majority the admissibility challenge presented by the Defense of Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi in June of last year. The Defense argued that the case was inadmissible because Mr. Gaddafi had been convicted by the Tripoli Criminal Court for substantially the same conduct as alleged in ICC proceedings, and was ultimately released from prison in Libya as a result of a general amnesty.

In rejecting the challenge, the Majority found the case against Mr. Gaddafi admissible before the Court. The Majority was not satisfied that the decision of the Tripoli Criminal Court was final, given that it was rendered in absentia and is still subject to appeal. It further found that Gaddafi was excluded from the relevant  amnesty (provided by Law No. 6 of 2015), asserting that “granting amnesties and pardons for serious acts such as murder constituting crimes against humanity is incompatible with internationally recognized human rights.”

The situation in Libya was referred to the ICC Prosecutor by the UN Security Council in 2011. Later that year, Pre-Trial Chamber I issued arrest warrants for Mr. Gaddafi, Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi, and Abdullah Al-Senussi for crimes against humanity (murder and persecution) allegedly committed by the Libyan state and Security Forces. Mr. Gaddafi’s father – Colonel Muammar Gaddafi – was deposed and killed in 2011, and Abdullah Al-Senussi’s case was found inadmissible in 2013. Mr. Gaddafi remains at large.

In the wake of its decision, Pre-Trial Chamber I and organizations like Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) urged the Libyan state and the international community to surrender Mr. Gaddafi to the ICC to face trial.

Libya | Statement of the ICC Prosecutor in Relation to the Escalation of Violence in and Around Tripoli, Libya

On April 16 2019, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda issued a statement expressing her concern about the recent escalation of violence in Libya. The unrest is a result of the advance of the Libyan National Army (LNA) towards Tripoli – Libya’s capital and the base of its UN-backed, internationally recognized government –  and related fighting with forces aligned with the Government of National Accord (GNA). It comes in the context of broader violence and political instability that has persisted since former ruler Muammar Gaddafi was deposed in 2011.

Prosecutor Bensouda called on the armed groups involved to respect the rules of international humanitarian law and take measures to protect civilians. She reminded all parties – particularly commanders with effective control over their forces – that individuals contributing to the commission of crimes may be subject to ICC prosecution.

With regard to the situation in Libya, she cautioned: “I will not hesitate to expand my investigations and potential prosecutions to cover any new instances of crimes falling within my Court’s jurisdiction, with full respect for the principle of complementarity. No one should doubt my determination in this regard.”

Mali | ICC Registrar Completes First Official Visit to Bamako, Mali

From March 24-28, 2019, ICC Registrar Peter Lewis conducted his first official visit to Bamako, Mali. Hoping to strengthen support for the Court’s activities in Mali, Registrar Lewis met with senior government representatives, the diplomatic community, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the media, and civil society.

The situation in Mali was referred to the ICC by Mali’s government in July 2012. In January 2013, the ICC Prosecutor opened two cases relating to crimes allegedly committed on its territory: The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, and The Prosecutor v. Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud. Mr. Al Mahdi was found guilty as a co-perpetrator of a war crime and sentenced to nine years imprisonment in 2016. Mr. Al Hassan is currently in ICC custody awaiting a confirmation of charges hearing.

Mali | Confirmation of Charges Hearing in Al Hassan Case Postponed to 8 July 2019

On April 18 2019, ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I announced its decision to postpone the commencement of the confirmation hearing for the case, The Prosecutor vs. Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud, from May 6 2019 to July 8 2019. This change was made on the basis of procedural issues.

The purpose of the confirmation of charges hearing is to “determine whether there is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that the person committed each of the crimes charges.” If the charges are confirmed – even if only in part – the case will proceed to trial. In the case of Mr. Al Hassan, these charges include war crimes and crimes against humanity that he allegedly committed as de facto chief of the Islamic police in Mali.

Mr. Al Hassan made his first appearance at the ICC one year ago and is currently in ICC custody.


Afghanistan | ICC Judges Reject Opening of an Investigation Regarding Afghanistan Situation

On April 12 2019, ICC Pre-Trial Chamber III unanimously rejected the ICC Prosecutor’s 2017 request to proceed with an investigation of alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Afghanistan. The Chamber concluded that such an investigation “would not serve the interests of justice.”

In its decision, the Chamber acknowledged that there was a reasonable basis to consider that crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction had been committed in Afghanistan, but considered the time that had elapsed since the opening of the preliminary examination in 2006 and the lack of cooperation that the Prosecutor had received to be major impediments to a successful investigation and prosecution. The Chamber called the Prosecutor’s prospects for success in this regard “extremely limited,” and emphasized the need for the Court “to use its resources prioritizing activities that would have better chances to success.”

The Chamber’s decision was a source of significant controversy – due in no small part to its temporal proximity to threats by United States National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to retaliate against the ICC if an investigation in Afghanistan proceeded. Earlier this month, the US revoked the visa of ICC Prosecutor Bensouda because of her attempts to investigate allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan, “including any that may have been committed by American forces.” Many commentators have interpreted the Chamber’s decision as excessively political and damaging to the ICC’s legitimacy.

On April 15 2019, the ICC released a Questions and Answers document detailing the reasoning behind the Chamber’s decision.

Afghanistan | Statement of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor Following the Decision of Pre-Trial Chamber II Concerning the Situation in Afghanistan

On April 12 2019, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) issued a statement on the decision of Pre-Trial Chamber II concerning the situation in Afghanistan. The statement highlights the Chamber’s finding that the requirements of gravity and complementarity were met, and expresses the OTP’s intention to “further analyze the decision and its implications, and consider all available legal remedies.”



Panama | ICC Registrar Concludes Official Visit to Panama to Discuss Strengthened Cooperation

From April 11-12 2019, ICC Registrar Peter Lewis conducted an official visit to Panama. The purpose of the visit was to strengthen the ICC’s cooperation with the government and other national stakeholders. Registrar Lewis reported that during his meetings, “the authorities of Panama reaffirmed their commitment to the fight against impunity, their strong support to the work and mandate of the Court and their engagement to continue cooperating with the ICC especially in the realm of voluntary agreement.“



Netherlands | The Office of Public Counsel for Victims Publishes Fifth Edition of its Manual for Victims’ Legal Representatives

In early April 2019, the Office of Public Counsel for Victims of the ICC published the fifth edition of its manual, “Representing Victims Before the International Criminal Court: A Manual for Legal Representatives,” which was first published in 2010. Over the past nine years, the manual has been updated in accordance with the Office’s mandate to provide support and assistance to victims and external legal representatives.

The manual is intended to serve as a user-friendly resource for victims’ representatives appearing before the ICC. The new edition is organized into three parts: Part I contains a general introduction to the ICC and the role of victims in Court proceedings; Part II details ICC practice relating to victims’ participation in Court proceedings, including reparation proceedings; and Part III provides an overview of practical issues relating to victim representation in ICC proceedings.

Currently, the updated manual is only available in English. French and Spanish versions of the new edition will be made available later this year.



Jordan | ICC Appeals Chamber to Deliver Its Judgment in Jordan’s Appeal in Al Bashir Case on May 6, 2019

On April 8 2019, the ICC Appeals Chamber announced that it would deliver its judgement on Jordan’s appeal of a decision of Pre-Trial Chamber II in the Omar Al-Bashir case on May 6 2019. The Chamber found that by not arresting Mr. Al-Bashir when he was on Jordanian territory in 2017, Jordan failed to comply with its obligations as an ICC state party. The Chamber referred Jordan’s non-compliance to the Assembly of States Parties and the UN Security Council. In March 2018, Jordan appealed the Chamber’s decision.

The situation in Sudan was referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council in 2005. In 2010, the ICC issued two arrest warrants for Mr. Al-Bashir for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide allegedly committed in Darfur. Additional information about Mr. Al-Bashir’s case can be found here.

Monthly News Update: Southern Cameroons - March 2019



Human rights violations

Maurice Kamto, the leader of the opposition party Cameroon Renaissance Movement, and several of his followers, were arrested in late January 2018 on the charges of offenses linked to their rejection of the election results, including rebellion and hostility against the homeland. According to Human Rights Watch, these arrests happened without a warrant. In addition, Kamto and his supporter Célestin Djamen were held for days in facilities not meant to detain people. In both cases, the lawyers had difficulties meeting their clients and they were only presented to the prosecutor after fifteen days, which is in violation of the Cameroon Criminal Procedure Code. Also, the civilians are being tried in a military court. Kamto’s barrister has already announced to start proceedings before international courts for these violations. Kamto himself reached out to the President to have a “frank dialogue” but President Buya refused.

International reactions to the arrest of Kamto

The politically motivated arrests have caused international reactions from the European Union and the United States of America and Human Rights Watch, among others. Frederica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, issued a statement on behalf of the EU in which she stated that “The rule of law requires a fair justice system and the release of detainees against whom hard evidence cannot be produced.”A similar call can be heard from US diplomat Tibor Naggy. He said that it would be wise for the government to release the prisoners, whether they are guilty of the charges or not, because the international community perceives the arrests as political motivated. He also called upon the Cameroonian government to be “more serious” in trying to bring the Anglophone crisis to an end. However, once Naggy actually arrived in Cameroon, he remained mute on the political and security issues in Cameroon.

The opposition leader remains detained and their supporters remain subjected to the will of the government. Some of the supporters were arrested March 24, 2019 for cleaning the streets of Yaoundé.  



Barrister Femi Falana has given Nigeria two weeks to return the representatives of Southern Cameroons who were arrested in Nigeria in January 2018. These more than 40 representatives were residing in Nigeria as asylum seekers and refugees. 

The call from Falana follows the order of the Federal High Court in Nigeria that the deportation of refugees and asylum seekers is illegal and unconstitutional.

Falana has already announced that he will initiate legal proceedings if Nigeria fails to return the representatives within two weeks to Nigeria. However, the people in question are being tried in Cameroon.


Kidnapping of football trainer

On March 20, a first division Cameroonian football club in Bamenda, announced  the release of their trainer, Emmanuel Ndoumbé Bosso, who was kidnapped by armed men. He claims that no ransom was paid, and he was not aware why he had been kidnapped. 

Kidnapping of football team

On the same day however an entire university football team was kidnapped from the University of Buea in the Anglophone region of Cameroon. It is not clear who is responsible for the kidnappings, which have become more frequent amid tensions between separatist groups and government troops. The team of 20 students were released on March 20. They told their coach that they were tortured by their kidnappers – they were maltreated and found with wounds on their backs. Ngongo Horace Manga, the university’s vice chancellor told CNN that on Thursday, the kidnappers had demanded a ransom to free the students. It is not clear whether the university paid the ransom demanded. No one has claimed responsibility for the abduction, however the Anglophone separatists have been accused. The students were warned by their captors to not return to their school.  

Kidnapping of former minister

Former Secretary of State, Emmanuel Ngafeeson, was kidnapped and security sources are attributing the kidnapping to the anglophone separatists. He was kidnapped by unidentified armed men from his residence in Ntabessi in Bamenda. His kidnapping took place just 24 hours after the kidnapping of football trainer Emmanuel Ndoumbe Bosso. He was released only ten days after his kidnapping