Abd-Al-Rahman Transferred into ICC Custody, Confirmation Hearing Planned for December

By: Christian González

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman, an alleged leader of the Janjaweed militia in Sudan and commonly known as “Ali Kushayb”, has been transferred into International Criminal Court (ICC) custody on June 9th, 2020. Charges against Abd-Al-Rahman include various crimes against humanity and war crimes. The confirmation hearing for these charges is scheduled provisionally for December 7th, 2020.

Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman at his first ICC appearance on June 15th, 2020. Photo Courtesy of The ICC.

A Sudanese national, Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman has been accused of leading thousands of Janjaweed (Arabic for “mounted gunman”) soldiers in the Darfur region of western Sudan. The Janjaweed, composed mainly of nomadic tribesmen of Arab descent, had been conducting aggressive raids on villages throughout Darfur in 2003 and 2004. Because the villages targeted were known sources of recruitment for the rebel armies involved in the Second Sudanese Civil War, it is believed that the Janjaweed were supported by the government of Sudan.

Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman’s involvement with the Janjaweed allegedly included acting as a mediator between Janjaweed leadership and the Sudanese government, as well as enlisting, arming, supplying, and funding troops. He has been accused of both ordering troops to commit and personally participating in crimes against humanity and war crimes against civilians. These actions were allegedly conducted in a joint government-Janjaweed counter-insurgency campaign.

Two warrants for arrest against Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman had been issued. The first, issued on April 27th, 2007, lists 50 counts of crime. These crimes were composed of twenty-two counts of crimes against humanity that include deportation, imprisonment, torture, inhumane acts of inflicting serious bodily injury and suffering, and rape; and twenty-eight counts of war crimes that include violence to life and person, outrage upon personal dignity in humiliating and degrading treatment, intentional attacks on a civilian population, pillaging, rape, and destroying or seizing property. These acts were conducted from August 2003 to March 2004 in the towns of Kodoom, Bindisi, Mukjar, and Arawala and constitute violations of articles 25(3)(a) and 25(3)(d) of the Rome Statute respectively. The second warrant, made public on June 11th, 2020, adds three charges of murder and other inhumane acts done in Deleig in March 2004.

After voluntarily turning himself in to authorities in the Central African Republic, Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman was transferred to ICC custody on June 9th, 2020, and on June 15th, 2020 his identity was confirmed at a hearing before Judge Rosario Salvatore Aitala. The judge ensured that Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman was aware of the charges being brought against him. When asked about them, Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman stated that these charges were “untrue.”

The confirmation hearing scheduled for December 7th will be held to determine if there is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds of a belief that Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman did indeed commit each of the alleged crimes. If any or all charges are confirmed, the case will move on to the trial phase. Mr. Cyril Laucci is serving as defense counsel for Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman. There is currently no representation for the victims.

For further information, please see:

International Criminal Court – Case Information Sheet: Situation in Darfur, Sudan – 15 June 2020

UN News – Arrest of Sudanese war crimes suspect ‘extremely significant’: UN rights chief – 9 June 2020

Slate – Who Are the Janjaweed? – 22 July 2004

International Criminal Court – Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court – 17 July 1998

Reuters – Sudan war crimes charges are untrue, suspect say – 15 June 2020

YouTube, IntlCriminalCourt – Ali Muhammad Ali-Al-Rahman case: initial appearance, 15 June 2020 ENGLISH – 15 June 2020

Murdered Mexican Journalist’s Body Elevates Concern for Reporters in the Country

By: Elyse Maugeri

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

VERACRUZ, Mexico – A journalist in Mexico was found decapitated in the gulf coast state of Veracruz earlier this month. Julio Valdivia is, at least, the fifth journalist this year to be murdered in the country and the second in Veracruz. His name has been added to the long list of journalists who have been killed reporting on crime in Mexico.

Woman Places a Photo of Julio Valdivia on His Casket in Veracruz, Mexico. Photo Courtesy of AP News.

It has been estimated that over the past 20 years, around 140 journalists have been murdered on the job there. However, this year alone, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the violence orchestrated against journalists has made Mexico the deadliest country in the world for reporting.

The remains of Valdivia’s tortured body were found on railroad tracks near his motorcycle in the municipality of Tezonapa; only about five miles from where he lived. The details regarding the whereabouts of his body were reported by his employer El Mundo de Córdoba.

The area where Valdivia was reporting is a known Jalisco New Generation cartel territory. The border between Veracruz and Oaxaca is regarded as violent and often journalists have to rely on self-censorship to remain alive. The State Commission for the Attention and Protection of Journalists (CEAPP) released in a statement that Valdivia had not received any special protection measures since he never reported any aggression or threats to his life.

A friend of the family, Angela Carrasco, mentioned in an interview with the Associated Press that Valdivia, a father of six, was working on a rate of about 1,000 pesos, or $47, a week. She stated he did this work for his family, and it was his life.

In a recent press release, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) condemned the murder stating that this was the most extreme form of censorship. Journalists have faced disappearances, torture, and murder with little intervention from the Mexican government throughout the years. The IACHR’s Office of the Special Rapporteur pointed to their 2018 Special Report on the Situation of Freedom of Expression in Mexico, reiterating how dangerous it still is to report on the news in the country. They called for the prosecutor’s office in Veracruz to remain unbiased and thorough in their investigation and to recognize the significant role Valdivia’s job played in his murder.

The prosecutor’s office in Veracruz released in a statement that they will, in fact, use Valdivia’s job as a key point in their investigation; something rarely done by prosecutors in Mexico. Authorities have sacrificed true justice, when investigating the murders of journalists, due to their relationships with the local cartels.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a staunch anti-cartel advocate, has praised the journalists operating in the area, calling their work “heroic.” He has been vocal about investigating these instances and punishing those involved in the murders. For now, the investigation remains open.

For further information, please see:

Associated Press – Mourners gather to bid farewell to murdered Mexican reporter – 10 Sept. 2020

Associated Press – A Mexican newspaper says a reporter slain, decapitated – 9 Sept. 2020

CNN – Another journalist found dead in Mexico, one of the most dangerous countries for reporters – 11 Sept. 2020

IACHR – Office of the Special Rapporteur condemns the murder of journalist Julio Valdivia in Mexico and reiterates concern on the persistence of attacks against the life and integrity of communicators – 21 Sept. 2020

The Beauty in Uncertainty

By: Melissa Berouty

3L at Syracuse University College of Law

What will the job market look like post-grad? Will online classes prepare me for the Bar exam? In March, questions like these began to spin through my mind. I was afraid of the uncertainty. I was afraid of what the future held for myself and my loved ones. I can now see the beauty in uncertainty.

This summer, I split my time between Columbia Law’s Eviction Moratorium Project and Harvard Law’s Worklife and Labor Program. I spent the summer researching the eviction crisis in Hawaii and Indiana. To my surprise, Hawaii led the nation in homelessness rates. Daily, I read devastating testimonies of families fearing eviction as moratoriums lifted around the United States.

Additionally, I researched worker’s rights in various industries. I learned about workplace conditions and safety, which were evidently dwindling in the face of COVID-19. I read stories of employees being furloughed or fired as businesses had no choice but to shut their doors.

It was humbling work, to say the least. I spent most of my summer quarantined in Florida with my best friend’s family. While yes, it would have been nice to be back home in California with my family, not once did I fear not having a roof over my head as millions across the United States were. I did not face the uncertainty of whether I would have a bed to sleep on at night or a warm meal on the table for dinner. For so many, housing is a symbol of security and stability. Without it, where would you be? It is a necessity of life— a human right.

While I worried about obtaining summer employment, employees significantly more qualified than me lost their jobs. As I conducted my work at the kitchen table with my best friend’s dog laying at my feet, essential workers’ put their lives at risk while being offered inadequate workplace protections. Before COVID-19 and our living rooms actually becoming our offices, many spent more time in their respective workplaces than their actual homes. A workplace should feel like a second home. Safe and healthy working conditions, a globally recognized human right, should be a non-negotiable.

While my fears of uncertainty were valid and justified, they were a product of a privileged space. After work, I logged off my computer and tuned back into “my reality.” My reality was secure employment, a roof over my head, and good health. My reality was extra time. Time I used to work out, to laugh with family and friends, and to try my hand at baking rosemary bread. During this pandemic, not everyone could simply log off and carry on with their days. Around the United States and beyond, peoples’ realities were the topics we law students researched.

In law school, I have been guilty of reading cases, extracting the rule, and moving on. I try my best to humanize the parties, but this can get lost in the mundane task of outlining. There are people behind every case, who have stories. Stories that both you and I can relate to. Stories that even on my worst day, I could never imagine experiencing.

This summer, my employers cared about these stories. Of course, I researched the law, but I also researched the impact of the law on the most vulnerable and I am better for it. Just because your reality is fortuitous, does not mean everyone is so lucky. Just because you feel as if an issue does not touch your world, does not mean it is nonexistent. Take a step out of your bubble, wearing a mask of course, and look at the world around you. What can you do to make it better? A consideration as simple as this, I firmly believe would make our world a better place.

Trump Administration Sued Over International Criminal Court Sanctions

By: Hannah Gabbard

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Editor-In-Chief

WASHINGTON, District of Columbia – On October 1, 2020, the Open Society Justice Initiative, a public interest law center dedicated to human rights, and four international law professors filed a complaint in federal court against the United States government challenging Executive Order 13928.

International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands. Photo Courtesy of Human Rights Watch.

Executive Order 13928, Blocking Property of Certain Persons With the International Criminal Court was issued on June 11, 2020, and implemented under the Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control regulation promulgated on September 30, 2020. Citing the U.S. Constitution, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act, and Title III of the United States Code, Executive Order 13928 declared a national emergency and threatened sanctions against International Criminal Court (ICC) officials. Executive Order 13928 specifies that the ICC action including “illegitimate assertions of jurisdiction over personnel of the United States and certain of its allies, including the ICC Prosecutor’s investigation into actions allegedly committed by United States military, intelligence, and other personnel in or related to Afghanistan” poses an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

The plaintiffs primarily allege that Executive Order 13928 violates their First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Moreover, plaintiffs allege that the Executive Order is a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, is ultra vires under the IEEPA, and is a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. The plaintiffs’ prayer for relief includes a declaration that the Executive Order violates each of their alleged claims, a request that the Court enjoins the defendants from enforcing the Executive Order against the plaintiffs, and for incurred costs and attorneys’ fees. 

In March 2020, the ICC Appeals Chamber authorized the ICC Prosecutor to begin an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the armed conflict in Afghanistan since May 2003. Afghanistan ratified the Rome Statute in 2003 which establishes the ICC’s jurisdiction over designated crimes committed in Afghanistan or by its citizens. This nexus implicates United States citizens for any conduct impermissible under the Rome Statute committed since 2003. However, due to restrictions in place throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the ICC is not currently taking any investigative steps in Afghanistan.

Since President Trump issued Executive Order 13928, numerous ICC member countries, human rights organizations, and legal scholars have spoken out against this action and indicated their support for the mission and role of the ICC as an independent judicial organization. Markedly, Human Rights Watch highlighted that the ICC is the “latest target of his administration’s contempt for the global rule of law.”

In attacking an institution that aims to provide accountability for the perpetrators of human rights abuses, the Trump administration further weakens its global leadership on human rights and the United States’ relationship with international institutions. As the election in the United States unfolds over the next month, the likely posture assumed towards the ICC hangs in the balance.

For further information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – US: Lawsuit Challenges ICC Sanctions – 2 Oct. 2020

The Guardian – Human rights lawyers sue Trump administration for ‘silencing’ them – 1 Oct. 2020

Human Rights Watch – Donald Trump’s Attack on the ICC Shows His Contempt for the Global Rule of Law – 6 July 2020

Just Security – Dissecting the Executive Order on Int’l Criminal Court Sanctions: Scope, Effectiveness, and Tradeoffs – 15 June 2020

IACHR Refers the Case of the Tagaeri and Taromenane Indigenous Peoples of Ecuador to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

By: Shane Kelly

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

ECUADOR – On September 30, 2020, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) referred the case of the Tagaeri and Taromenane Indigenous Peoples in Voluntary Isolation in Ecuador to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights following continuous violations of the tribes’ rights.

Yasuní National Park.

The Tagaeri and Taromenane are indigenous peoples of Ecuador who live in voluntary isolation. While the term “voluntary isolation” has taken on a different meaning in the post-COVID world, in this context it refers to the decision of the Tagaeri and Taromenane to live without contact with the modern world, and continue their traditional lifestyle within the limits of the Tagaeri and Taromenane Intangibility Zone (“TTIZ”). The TTIZ was created in 1999 with a presidential decree that permanently protected a section of Yasuní National Park from oil drilling and logging operations. The isolation provided by the TTIZ allows for the two groups to maintain a nomadic, hunter-gatherer existence and preserve the land of their ancestors.

The IACHR analyzed Ecuador’s obligations to the Tagaeri and Taromenane in its Merits Report. The Report detailed several areas where Ecuador had failed to protect the inviolability of the TTIZ. Specifically, Ecuador has failed in its obligation to prevent interference with the TTIZ by third parties. The IACHR found that title granted to the TTIZ is not a full title, which has led to numerous illegal trespasses of loggers. As a result of these trespasses, members of the Tagaeri and Taromenane people suffered violent deaths in three instances in 2003, 2006, and 2013. The IACHR attributes these altercations between loggers and the tribesmen to Ecuador’s shortcomings in preventing third parties from illegally interfering with the TTIZ.

The IACHR further found that Ecuador was responsible for the violation of personal rights and freedoms of two tribal girls were forcibly taken from their communities following the deaths of their parents. Finally, the IACHR observed that Ecuador did not offer any judicial recourse and that their remedies were ineffective, lacking due diligence in criminal investigations.

Therefore, the IACHR concluded that:

the State of Ecuador is responsible for the violation of the rights set forth in Articles 4(1) (right to life), 5(1) (right to personal integrity), 7(1) (right to liberty), 8(1) (right to judicial guarantees), 11 2 (right to honour and dignity), 19 (rights of the child), 21.1 (right to property), 22.1 (right to freedom of movement and residence), 25.1 (right to judicial protection) and 26 (right to health and cultural rights) of the American Convention on Human Rights, in relation to the obligations set out in its Articles 1.1 and 2.

The Report recommends that Ecuador correctly title the TTIZ with appropriate boundaries, provide necessary rehabilitation for the relocated tribal girls, investigate the deaths of tribesmen at the hands of loggers, and provided mechanisms for non-repetition and other adequate remedies.

For further information, please see:

OAS – IACHR Refers Case on Ecuador to the Inter-American Court – 5 Oct. 2020

WRM – Ecuador: The Tagaeri Taromenane Intangible Zone in Yasuní Park – 2 Oct. 2013