POST WRITTEN BY: Prof. Peter Widulski, Assistant Director of the First Year Legal Skills Program and the Coach of International Criminal Moot Court Team at Pace Law School.
On December 10 and 11, 2014, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued decisions calling for delivery to the ICC of two persons under its arrest warrants.
The December 10 finding of non-compliance by Libya, under article 87(7), relates to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, for whom the ICC issued an arrest warrant in May 2011, charging him with crimes against humanity allegedly committed by Libyan security forces under his command during anti-government protests. The December 11 decision on the admissibility relates to Simone Gbagbo, for whom the ICC issued an arrest warrant in February 2012, charging her with responsibility for crimes against humanity regarding violence committed by government forces against political opponents of her husband, former President Laurent Gbagbo, relating to the November 2010 Ivory Coast presidential election.
Ivory Coast was asserting its right under Rome Statute articles 17 and 19 to challenge the admissibility of Simone Gbagbo’s case on the ground that it was prosecuting her for the same crimes charged in the ICC arrest warrant. In the Gaddafi case, ICC courts had previously rejected Libya’s challenge to the admissibility of the ICC case against him and reminded Libya of its obligation to surrender him to the Court. Libya is not a State Party to the Rome Statute, but in February 2011 the U.N. Security Council acting under its Chapter VII powers issued a Resolution 1970 referring the Libyan situation to the Court and requiring Libyan authorities to fully cooperate with the ICC. The issue before the Court was whether Libya failed to comply with this obligation.
In the Ivory Coast situation, as blogged about earlier, the ICC issued arrest warrants against Ivory Coast nationals Laurent Gbagbo, Simone Gbagbo, and Charles Blé Goudé – all on the same charges relating to the same events. The Ivory Coast government chose to surrender Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé to the ICC, but not Simone Gbagbo. The government’s reasons for this selection are not fully apparent from court documents. Nevertheless, the Ivory Coast decided to challenge the admissibility of Simone Gbagbo’s case. The Court rejected this challenge, finding that the Ivory Coast government failed to show that it was investigating and prosecuting Gbagbo for the same criminal conduct alleged by the ICC Prosecutor. The Court concluded that Ivory Coast must “surrender Simone Gbagbo to the Court without delay.”
With respect to the Gaddafi case, the Court found that Libya failed to comply with repeated requests to deliver Gaddafi to the Court and also failed to comply with requests to return to the Defense privileged documents that Libyan authorities had seized from Gaddafi’s defense counsel. Determining that Libya was depriving the defendant of his rights and preventing the Court from fulfilling its mandate, the Court, under article 87(7), referred the matter to the Security Council, so that the Council may consider measures to secure Libya’s compliance.
ICC had previously utilized article 87(7) to inform the Security Council of the failure of authorities in Chad, Malawi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to arrest and surrender Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, for whom ICC issued arrest warrants charging him with responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, committed during the conflict in Darfur. Al-Bashir remains at large.
In the week preceding the Gaddafi finding, the Trial Chamber V(B) rendered Decision on Prosecution’s application for a finding of non-compliance under article 87(7) stating that the Government of Kenya, a State Party to the Rome Statute, had breached its treaty obligation by failing to provide the Prosecutor with access to information necessary for the case against Kenyan President Kenyatta on charges of crimes against humanity committed during the 2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya. As a result of Kenya’s breach, ICC Prosecutor Bensouda withdrew the charges against Kenyatta without prejudice. In a December 5, 2014 press release, Bensouda stated that this was “a painful moment for the men, women and children who have suffered tremendously from the horrors of the post-election violence, and who have waited, patiently, for almost seven years to see justice done.”
The Kenyatta, al-Bashir, Gaddafi, and Simone Gbagbo cases illustrate the difficulties the ICC confronts in carrying out its responsibilities to prosecute grave international crimes.