Thursday, September 13, 2018

Illegitimate ICC Ruling Over People Without Consent

(Staff articles from The INDEPENDENT & The TIME in September 2018.)

ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is threatening to
arrest Duterte, Min Aung Hlaing, & Donald Trump.
Donald Trump’s NSA and former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton declares International Criminal Court 'dangerous' and 'dead to' America: He labels the ICC as a 'freewheeling global organisation governing over people without their consent'.

National Security Advisor to Donald Trump, John Bolton, has said the International Criminal Court (ICC) is “dead to us” in his latest speech. He labelled the court as “illegitimate” and “for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us”.

Mr Bolton, who has long held an unfavourable view of the court, who was speaking at a meeting of the Federalist Society, a conservative group based in Washington DC, said the ICC was “ineffective, unaccountable, and indeed outright dangerous”.

The court, established in 2002 in The Hague in the Netherlands, has the power to prosecute individuals for war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. The US never ratified the Rome Statute that established the court and George W Bush, in the early days of the still-ongoing war in Afghanistan, never ratified it.

The court is getting ready to investigate detainee abuse in Afghanistan, an investigation Mr Bolton called “utterly unfounded”, adding: “We will provide no cooperation to the ICC.” The former US Ambassador to the United Nations under Mr Bush, went on to say the “central aim of [the ICC’s] most vigorous supporters was to constrain the US”.

Mr Bolton said the court’s statute had “glaring, significant flaws” and “constituted an assault on the constitutional rights of the American people and the sovereignty of the US”. Mr Bolton, following a trend in the Trump administration of criticising multilateralism, branded the ICC as a “freewheeling global organisation governing over individuals without their consent”.

He claimed American “soldiers, politicians, and private citizens” are at risk because the court assumes the automatic right to prosecute over everyone, even in countries which did not ratify the Rome Statute establishing the court. 

Israel, Sudan, Russia, and the US under Mr Bush, are four signatories of the statute who renounced their signatures and informed the UN they would no longer be subject to the legal obligations under the statute. Mr Bolton said the US’ “unsigning” of the Rome Statute was meant to protect Americans from the “unacceptable overreach” of the court.

He cited the 2002 American Service-members Protection Act, “which some have dubbed the Hague invasion act” Mr Bolton said and also prosecution within South Africa following the abolishment of apartheid as examples of why the court was “superfluous”. The act authorised the US president to use all means, “including force”, to shield US military members from prosecution by the ICC, he noted.

The Trump aide said US courts and the military justice system already hold all Americans to “the highest legal and ethical standards”. Mr Bolton repeatedly hit out at the global body of which 123 countries are part, asking: “Would you consign the fate of American citizens to a committee of other nations [and] entities that aren’t even states like the Palestinian authority?”

The US state department had earlier announced the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) office in Washington, partly out of a concern over the office’s attempts to have the ICC investigate US ally Israel.

He supported the aggressive US stance against the ICC by citing internal management issues, like divulging confidential information to human rights ambassadors like actress Angelina Jolie.

Mr Bolton went as far as threatening ICC officials and prosecutors with sanctions and legal action “to the extent permissible under US law” and said those individuals could be barred from entering the country.

The overarching message of the National Security Advisor was that any perceived atrocity against humanity is to be deemed so by the people within those states, not by the international body. “We don’t recognise any authority higher than the US Constitution,” Mr Bolton said.

One of the most powerful women in this world has the frightening power to charge anyone with Crimes Against Humanity.
ICC Says It Can Rule on Alleged War Crimes Against Rohingya

In a ruling that could open the door for the first criminal prosecution of the Myanmar military’s ethnic cleansing campaign, the International Criminal Court said Thursday that it has jurisdiction to probe the forced expulsion of Rohingya as a possible crime against humanity.

More than 700,000 people from the stateless Muslim minority were driven from their homes in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state and into neighboring Bangladesh since last August. Survivors described fleeing a military-led frenzy of gang rapes, arson and mass murder.

Thursday’s decision allows chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to open a preliminary investigation into whether there is sufficient evidence of forced deportations, or other crimes against humanity, to press charges.

“The decision represents a significant moment in the search for accountability for international crimes allegedly committed against the Rohingyas,” says Kingsley Abbott, senior legal adviser at the International Commission of Jurists. “The onus is now on the Prosecutor to initiate an investigation as soon as possible.”

In a statement, Adilur Rahman Khan, the Muslim vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights, said the ruling “offers a glimmer of hope for justice for the thousands of Rohingya victims who were deported and continue to suffer in Bangladesh as a result of this serious crime.”

The announcement follows a damning report from U.N. investigators last week that called for Myanmar’s military chief and five other top commanders be investigated and prosecuted for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. In the strongest language yet used by U.N. officials, the experts condemned the military’s “genocidal intent,” and said the long-standing abuse of several ethnic groups “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law.”

By what they termed a conservative estimate, the U.N. fact-finding team estimated some 10,000 people had died in the most recent violence in Rakhine. Since Myanmar is not a member of the Hague-based court, it had previously seemed as though any potential prosecution would depend on a referral from the U.N. Security Council, where Russia and China could block the motion with a veto.

However, in April, the ICC’s chief prosecutor Bensouda asked judges to examine the court’s jurisdiction over deportations to Bangladesh, which is a signatory to the Rome Statute which governs the court.

Bensouda compared the deportations to “a cross-border shooting,” since the crime “is not completed until the bullet (fired in one state) strikes and kills the victim (standing in another state),” according to Agence-France Presse.

In a summary of their decision, the three-judge panel agreed that the cross-border nature of the alleged crimes gives the court jurisdiction. Their ruling also paves the way for a wider inquiry than just the deportations.

“The court may also exercise its jurisdiction with regard to any other crime set out in article 5 of the statute, such as the crimes against humanity of persecution and/or other inhumane acts,” the judges said in a written account of their decision.

Effectively, the decision means that just because “Myanmar is not a Party to the Rome Statute does not prevent an investigation and possible prosecution of any persons, including Myanmar nationals, for perpetrating crimes where one element — or part of the crime — occurred on the territory of Bangladesh,” says Abbott. He added that ultimately, the process could lead to “arrest warrants, indictments and trials if an accused is brought before the Court.”

However, the scope of the investigation would not cover Kachin or Shan states, where the U.N. has also found evidence of war crimes. It would also not encompass the full array of charges Myanmar could theoretically face if referred by the Security Council.

Myanmar’s government spokesperson did not respond to request for comment about the ICC’s ruling. Officials, including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, have staunchly rejected accusations of military atrocities, and have previously called the ICC’s attempts to open a probe “meritless.”

The woman, Fatou Bensouda, described as one of the most influential people in the world — who serves as the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague — lost her son to gun violence in St. Paul earlier this year.

George Bensouda, 33, was fatally shot outside the St. Paul Saloon in the Dayton’s Bluff area on the night of Jan. 29. At the time of the killing, police took the unusual step of not publicly naming him.

The Ramsey County attorney’s office released Bensouda’s name last week, after the Pioneer Press requested it. Bensouda’s family had initially asked that his identity not be made public, according to the county attorney’s office.

The family said in a statement Friday that they “remain deeply shocked and saddened by the sudden and tragic demise of their loved one.”

Days after Bensouda was killed, prosecutors filed a second-degree murder charge against Kareem Karel Mitchell, also known as Kareem Ase. A spokesman for the county attorney’s office said that because the case is pending they could not comment on whether Bensouda and Mitchell knew each other or on other aspects of the case.

The criminal complaint does not give a motive for the killing. Surveillance video showed that a man came up to Bensouda and a friend outside the bar and “it appears that words were exchanged,” according to the complaint. Bensouda stumbled toward the man, his friend moved him back and then the man started firing a gun.

Most people who police talked to at the saloon at 1045 Hudson Road reported there were no disputes inside that night, but one man said he saw Bensouda arguing with someone by the pool table, according to the complaint. Another man said Bensouda had bought drinks for people, apparently including Mitchell.

Son Of ‘The Woman Who Hunts Tyrants’

Bensouda, who was a native of Gambia, attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire between 2001 and 2002 and then from 2004 to December 2007, graduating with a bachelor of business administration degree in management-entrepreneurship.

Bensouda’s father is a businessman and his mother is Fatou Bensouda. She worked as a prosecutor and a justice minister and later a lawyer at the Rwanda tribunal that prosecuted perpetrators of the 1990s genocide.

Fatou Bensouda went on to become deputy prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, and then chief prosecutor in 2012. The court tries individuals for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

A headline in The Guardian last year referred to Fatou Bensouda as “the woman who hunts tyrants” and the article called her as one of the most powerful African women in the world. Time magazine named Bensouda as one of the most influential people in the world in 2012.

“The investigation into this callous and unprovoked crime is continuing by the competent authorities,” Bensouda’s family said in the statement. “At this juncture, the family is assisting the authorities in any way they can to ensure the legal process takes its course and that the person responsible for this heinous crime faces justice as expediently as possible.”

College Graduate Who’d Been In Trouble

Thug and a gangsta? George Bensouda.
Details of George Bensouda’s life, beyond his schooling at UW-Eau Claire and his criminal record, are hard to trace. He did not appear to have an online presence. The Ramsey County medical examiner’s office said George Bensouda had an Eau Claire address; a funeral home listed him as a Mahtomedi resident.

When St. Paul police encountered Bensouda in June 2015, he had a Minneapolis address. In that case, a passerby who was an off-duty officer heard gunshots being fired, saw an apparent struggle in a Lincoln Navigator and a window of the vehicle shattering. No one was injured in the shooting, which police said occurred in Bensouda’s vehicle. A police report listed Bensouda as a suspect. He was not charged in that case.

In Wisconsin, Bensouda had been accused in a string of gun-related cases.

In November 2010, several people reported they were out drinking and went to Bensouda’s Eau Claire apartment, where they were playing video games, according to a transcript from a hearing in federal court.

Bensouda allegedly became angry when a man accidentally bumped his television and Bensouda began shooting at him, a prosecutor told the court. The man was not injured, and Bensouda was charged with attempted first-degree homicide in Wisconsin court, along with possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number and possession of cocaine with intent to deliver in federal court.

Ballistics also linked Bensouda’s gun to a December 2009 incident of shots fired in which a vehicle was damaged, and an October 2007 shots fired in the area of Bensouda’s apartment, according to the federal court transcript.

The federal case was dismissed when Bensouda was charged in state court, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin. He was found guilty of recklessly endangering safety after a no-contest plea, according to a court record.

Lost His Life On Winter Night

The night Bensouda was fatally shot was a Sunday. He and a friend, Gregory Wilson, went to the St. Paul Saloon.

Wilson, who was then 30, told police that Bensouda saw someone he knew by the pool table and Bensouda’s “interactions with the other people were friendly and there did not seem to be any problems,” according to the criminal complaint.

Meanwhile, the man who told police he heard Bensouda arguing with someone near the pool table reported that the alleged shooter and a woman left the bar, and then Bensouda and Wilson left. The man heard Bensouda “say he was going to take care of it right now,” according to the complaint.

From the window, the bar patron saw a man walk up to Bensouda and Wilson and start shooting. After Bensouda fell, the man stood over him and shot him several times, the complaint said. Wilson was shot in the leg and survived. Bensouda, who was pronounced dead at the hospital, had been shot seven times.

Police identified Mitchell as the suspect, according to the complaint. Chicago police arrested Mitchell in that city on Feb. 24. Mitchell is being held in the Ramsey County jail on $1 million bail. He intends to plead not guilty and go to trial, said Mitchell’s attorney Earl Gray, who otherwise declined comment. Mitchell has eight previous felony convictions — five for drug cases and three for DWIs, according to the complaint.

Duterte's death squads are killing thousands in Philippines.
President Rodrigo Duterte is unfazed by ICC investigation

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is to open a preliminary inquiry into alleged crimes committed during the Philippines government's war on drugs, its chief prosecutor says. Fatou Bensouda said it would look at reports of extrajudicial killings.

President Rodridgo Duterte's policy of endorsing such killings in the drugs war has drawn widespread condemnation. Ms Bensouda said an initial examination would also be opened into the use of excessive force in Venezuela. The government of President Nicolas Maduro has faced accusations of human rights violations following protests last year in which more than 120 people were killed.

Ms Bensouda said she had "closely followed" the situations in the Philippines and Venezuela and after "a careful, independent and impartial review... I have decided to open a preliminary examination into each situation".

She stressed that the examinations by the ICC - based in The Hague - were "not an investigation" but a process of examining information "in order to reach a fully informed determination on whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation".

With regard to the Philippines, she said her office would analyse alleged crimes committed in the context of the government's "war on drugs". Specifically it has been alleged that since July 2016 thousands of persons have been killed for reasons related to their alleged involvement in illegal drug use or dealing," she said.

"While some of such killings have reportedly occurred in the context of clashes between and within gangs it is alleged that many of the reported incidents involved extrajudicial killings in the course of police anti-drug operations."

President Duterte's spokesman, Harry Roque, dismissed the ICC's examination as a "waste of time and resources". He said Mr Duterte had employed "lawful use of force" against threats to the country.

Amnesty International welcomed the ICC's announcement on the Philippines, saying it marked "a crucial moment for justice and accountability. This announcement is a warning to leaders around the world that those who order or incite crimes against humanity including murder will not be able to get away with it, and will be subject to investigation under international law," said James Gomez, Amnesty's south-east Asia director.

President Duterte challenged the ICC to find a place where execution by firing squad is allowed if he would be adjudged guilty.

President Duterte said that he is not threatened by the complaints lodged against him before the International Criminal Court (ICC), saying that he is willing to be indicted and convicted if it means protecting the interest of the Filipino people.

“Do not worry about me. I can face the ICC. If they want to indict me and convict me, fine. I will gladly do it for my country,” Duterte said in his speech following the oath taking of the members of the Consultative Committee on Tuesday, February 13.

The Chief Executive likewise challenged the ICC to find a place where execution by firing squad is allowed if he would be adjudged guilty. “I would love to experience what Rizal experienced too,” Duterte said.

It can be recalled that late last week, the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor said it would start its preliminary investigation on the extrajudicial killings allegations associated with the Duterte administration.

The President however he would only be loyal to the people and the flag where he swore allegiance to after getting elected as the highest official in 2016. “I swear before God and country that I will protect my nation, that I will also have to protect the people. That’s about it,” Duterte added.