The Gambia this month announced that it will be leaving the International Criminal Court (ICC) after Burundi and South Africa launched their own similar petitions in October to leave the court, which has been criticized by a number of African countries.
On Tuesday, 26 October the Gambian government announced that it is withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing the world body of ignoring the “war crimes” of Western nations and seeking only to prosecute Africans. Speaking on state television, Information Minister Sheriff Bojang disclosed that “this action is warranted by the fact that the ICC, despite being called the International Criminal Court, is in fact an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans.” The statement from Gambia, whose citizens make up disproportionately high proportion of the African migrant flow to Europe, further disclosed that it had sought to bring the European Union (EU) before the ICC over the deaths of migrants however it had received no response. It disclosed, “there are many Western countries, at least 30, that have committed heinous war crimes against independent sovereign states and their citizens since the creation of the ICC and not a single Western war criminal has been indicted.”
The decision by The Gambia comes just days after South Africa also announced that it was quitting The Hague-based tribunal. The ICC has yet to comment on the move, however coming soon after South Africa’s announcement, Gambia’s decision to also quit the court has added to pressure on the world’s first permanent war crimes court. Burundi has already said that it is planning to leave while Kenya’s parliament has disclosed that it is considering following suit. The ICC has had to fight off allegations that it is pursuing a neo-colonial agenda in Africa, where all but one of its ten investigations have been based.
On Wednesday, the United Nations human rights chief disclosed that 31 people have been killed in attacks in Burundi this month, decrying an increase in violence in the East African country.
In a statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein disclosed that “some 31 people have been killed in attacks so far in April, compared to a total of nine people in the last month.” He added, “I fear that the increasing number of targeted assassinations will inevitably exacerbate the already extremely dangerous spiral of violence and unrest in Burundi.”
In the latest incident, which occurred Monday 25 April, gunmen killed a brigadier general who was a senior adviser to the vice president.
Tit-for-tat attacks between President Pierre Nkurunzia’s security forces and his opponents escalated a year ago when he announced a disputed bid for a third term in office, a bid that he went on to win in July. The UN has disclosed that more than 400 people have been killed since then and more than 250,000 have fled the country. Earlier this week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it would investigate the ongoing violence in Burundi.
The United Nations has launched a human rights investigation into the on-going violence that is taking place in the Central African Republic (CAR). The launch of the investigation comes after the UN Security Council ordered an inquiry in December to identify suspects who could be prosecuted for the violence. On Monday, inquiry head Bernard Acho Muna indicated that he hoped the presence of investigators in the CAR would help prevent genocide. The Cameroonian judge added that “we have to put an end to the impunity,” noting that the “hate propaganda” in the CAR was similar to that in Rwanda before the 1994 genocide that killed about 800,000 people. Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, before heading for the CAR, Mr Muna stated “we don’t wait until genocide is committed and then we call for prosecution….I think it is in our mandate to see how one can stop any advances toward genocide.” The inquiry will “…present to the Security Council a complete file so that the appropriate action can be taken.” A team of UN investigators will arrive in Bangui on Tuesday to begin interviewing Christian and Muslim victims of attacks, as well as senior political and military officials and activist groups. The commission, which includes former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castaneda and Fatimata M’Baye, a lawyer from Mauritania, will spend two weeks in the CAR and will also look into Chad’s role in the violence. They will then draw up a confidential list of suspects for eventual prosecution, which will be submitted to world powers later this year. They will also be in touch with a preliminary inquiry, which will be carried out by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Since the beginning of the conflict last year, thousands of people have been killed while the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) says that about 1.3 million people, a quarter of the population, are in need of aid. Tens of thousand of Muslims have also fled the country as Christian militias have stepped up their attacks since the forced resignation of the CAR’s first Muslim ruler, Michel Djotodia, in January 2014. Many Muslims have crossed the borders into neighbouring Cameroon and Chad, while thousands more are living in camps inside the CAR. Although interim President Catherine Samba Panza has appealed for an end to the bloodshed, this appeal has gone with little success.
On Friday, UN aid chief Valerie Amos announced that fewer than 1,000, of the more than 100,000 Muslims who once lived in the capital city, remain in Bangui.
Somali Forces Launch Operations to Retake al-Shabaab Controlled Regions
Officials indicated Monday that African peacekeepers, operating alongside government forces, have recaptured several strategic towns in the south-western region of Somalia. The recapture comes just days after the African Union’s AMISOM force announced that it had launched a wide scale offensive against al-Shabaab militants in areas located near the Ethiopian border. The operation to remove the militant group from its last remaining strongholds in central and southern Somalia also comes in the wake of a sure of attacks in the country’s capital, Mogadishu, where al-Shabaab continues its bid to oust the internationally-backed government.
Speaking to reports, regional government official Abdulahi Yarisow confirmed the operations, stating “AMISOM and the Somali troops kicked al-Shabaab out of several key towns including Wajid and regional capital Hudur,” adding that “our military advancement will continue until we eliminate the enemy from the rest of the country.” A statement released by AMISOM indicated that troops had secured the towns of Ted, Rabdhure and Buudhubow, effectively driving out al-Shabaab militants from the area. The statement added that “the SNA (Somali National Army) and AMISOM joint operations signal the beginning of the renewed efforts by the Somali government forces working more closely with AMISOM forces to dislodge al-Shabaab from many of its strongholds across the country.”
Although Hudur had been captured from al-Shabaab by Ethiopian troops in March 2012, their withdrawal from the region resulted in the town falling back into the control of al-Shabaab.
On Friday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) found Germain Katanga guilty of war crimes but has acquitted him of sexual offences. He has been found guilty of complicity in a 2003 massacre and becomes just the second person to be convicted by the court since it was set up in The Hague in 2002. If he had been convicted of sexual offences, he would have been the first to be convicted of sexual crimes.
On Friday, the ICC was due to deliver its verdict in the trial of Congolese ex-militia boss Germain Katanga, who has been accused of using child soldiers in a 2003 attack on a village in the central region of the African country, killing 200 people. Judge Bruno Cotte read out the verdict at 0830 GMT in the case against Katanga, the one-time commander of the ethnic-based Patriotic Resistance Forces in Ituri (FRPI), operating in the DR Congo’s mineral-rich north-eastern region.
Katanga, 35, went on trial more than four years ago, facing seven counts of war crimes and three of crimes against humanity, including murder, sexual slavery and rape, for his alleged role in the attack on the small village of Bogoro on 24 April 2003. During the trial, prosecutors alleged that the man and his forces of the Ngiti and Lendu tribes attacked villagers of the Hema ethnic group with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and machetes, murdering around 200 people. According to the prosecution, “the attack was intended to ‘wipe out’ or ‘raze’ Bogoro village…” Child soldiers were used while women and girls were abducted afterwards and used as sex slaves, forced to cook and obey orders from FRPI soldiers. In 2004, as part of a policy to end the civil strife, Katanga was made a general in President Joseph Kabila’s army, a post he held until he was arrested in 2005. In October 2007, he was transferred to The Hague while his trial, together with that of his co-accused Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, began two years later. In November 2012, judges split the trials and a month later, Ngudjolo was acquitted after judges in that case indicated that the prosecution had failed to prove that he had played a commanding role in the Bogoro attack. This was the first time that the ICCC had acquitted a suspect. Katanga, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, has consistently maintained that he had no direct command or control over the FRPI fighters at the time. He also denied ever being present at the time of the attack on Bogoro, which is located 25 kilometres (15 miles) south of Ituri province’s administrative capital Bunia, near Lake Albert. The Hague-based ICC has so far only convicted one other suspect, former Congolese rebel fighter Thomas Lubanga, who was sentenced in 2012 to 14 years for recruiting and enlisting child soldiers.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has released an arrest warrant for Ivorian ex-minister Charles Ble Goude pertaining to charges over war crime allegations. According to the ICC, he is wanted for alleged crimes against humanity which occurred during the violence that erupted following the 2010 disputed elections in the Ivory Coast. Meanwhile in Guinea, the country’s President has called on the opposition to accept the results of Saturday’s vote. While the provisional results have yet to be announced by the country’s electoral commission, security in the capital city has increased as the atmosphere has been tense.
ICC Makes 2011 Arrest Warrant Public
While the Ivory Coast’s Charles Ble Goude, 40, has denied leading pro-Laurent Gbagbo militias in the violent attacks that occurred shortly after the 2010 elections, the ICC has indicated that Mr. Ble Goude, who is currently detained in the Ivory Coast, is suspected of murder, rape, persecution and other inhuman acts that were committed between December 2010 and April 2011. During that time, some 3,000 people lost their lives in the crisis after ex-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat. Judges in The Hague have stated that forces loyal to former President Gbagbo targeted civilians who backed his opponent, the Ivory Coasts current President Alassane Ouattara. Although the arrest warrant for Mr. Ble Goude was issued in December 2011, it has only now been made public and it describes the Ivorian ex-minister as a member of Mr. Gbagbo’s “inner circle.”
Following the post election violence, Mr. Ble Goude spent more than eighteen months in hiding. He was arrested in January 2013 in Ghana and extradited to the Ivory Coast, where he also faces war crimes charges. He has previously stated that as head of the Young Patriots group, he had only organised rallies and meetings and that he never ran a militia. Mr. Ble Goude, who was placed under United Nations sanctions in 2006 for allegedly inciting attacks against UN personnel, has indicated that he is prepared to go in front of the ICC in order to clear his name.
Ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, 67, was arrested in 2011 and is currently awaiting trial, on four charges of crimes against humanity relating to the election violence, at The Hague. The former president’s wife, Simone Gbagbo, has also been indicted by the ICC however the Ivory Coast’s ministers have voted to dismiss the ICC warrant and have instead indicated that they will try her in the country’s own courts.
Tensions Increase as Guineas Await Election Results
On Wednesday, in the midst of security being increased throughout the capital city amid fears of violence, Guinean President Alpha Conde urged party leaders to accept the results of the September 28 legislative polls. While the results have not yet been confirmed, the President has praised the vote, calling it the dawn of democracy in the West African state which has been chronically hit with instability. During Conde’s speech, which marked the 55th anniversary of Guinea’s independence from France, the President stated “I would like to say how proud I am…of your amazing mobilization to make these legislative polls a real success.” The 75-year-old added that the election “has allowed us to take another step on the path to democracy.” However while the president has urged for calm as the election results begin to trickle in, the country’s main opposition parties have already stated that the elections were rigged. On Tuesday, Guinea’s electoral commission released some partial and provisional results. Although full provisional results had been due to be released on Wednesday, officials indicated late on Tuesday that tally sheets were still being transported from polling stations.
On Wednesday, police and military reinforcements were visible on the streets of Conakry, with barricades being set up around the headquarters of the electoral commission. Despite the independence day bank holiday, an increased number of shops and market stalls remained shut as the atmosphere continued to be tense.