ICC Rights Watch

ICC Postpones Delivery of Judgment for Malian Crimes Against Humanity and Gender-Based Persecution Case

By: Joo Young Lee

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands – On January 15, 2024, Trial Chamber X of the International Criminal Court (ICC) postponed delivery of its verdict for The Prosecutor v. Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud (hereinafter “Al Hassan”) pursuant to article 74 of the Rome Statute.

Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud at the International Criminal Court in The Hague (Netherlands) on May 23, 2023. | Photo Courtesy of the ICC.

Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud is accused of perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity in Timbuktu, Mali. He is facing charges of persecution based on religious and gender grounds, rape, torture, sexual slavery, and forced marriages that occurred between April 2012 and January 2013. The delivery of the judgment by the ICC was originally set for January 18, 2024, and a new date will be announced in due course.

Notably, the Al Hassan case marks the ICC’s first prosecution of the crime against humanity of persecution on grounds of gender pursuant to the Rome Statute. The prosecution contends that Al Hassan and his group specifically targeted women and girls for breaking a strict dress code, restrictions on freedom of movement, and rules on segregation of the sexes. According to prosecutors, Al Hassan led a police force created by the al Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine group that tormented Timbuktu, particularly targeting women who faced rape, forced marriages and sexual slavery.

The United Nations’ Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda recognizes sexual violence as a weapon of war and acknowledges that it can amount to international crimes, calling for enhanced criminal accountability.

During a hearing on May 9, 2022, the defense argued that faced with dire circumstances, Al Hasan became involved with armed groups as a survival strategy. The defense maintained that Al Hasan was wrongly selected for prosecution and portrayed him as trying to maintain order in a chaotic situation in Timbuktu following the rebel takeover. The defense also argued that Al Hasan’s role in the conflict was too minor to warrant charges at the ICC for crimes against humanity.

Closing statements occurred before the ICC between May 23 and 25, 2023. Trial Chamber X of the ICC will deliver its decision on conviction or acquittal pursuant to article 74 of the Rome Statute. The Chamber bases its decision only on the applicable law and on evidence submitted before it at the trial.

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – ICC prosecutors: Mali rebel “enthusiastic” war crimes perpetrator – 23 May 2023

Courthouse News Service – Closing arguments begin in trial over Mali war crimes – 23 May 2023

Diplomat – ICC Trial Chamber X to deliberate on the Al Hassan case – 25 May 2023

ICC – Al Hassan case: Trial Chamber X postpones delivery of judgment – 15 Jan. 2024

ICC – Trial Judgment in Al Hassan case on 18 January 2024 – Practical information – 10 Jan. 2024

ICC – Al Hassan case: ICC Trial Chamber X to deliver Trial Judgment on 18 January 2024 – 6 Dec. 2023

ICC – ICC Trial Chamber X to deliberate on the Al Hassan case – 25 May 2023

Justice in Conflict – Writing the Jurisprudence of Gender-Based Persecution: Al Hassan on Trial at the ICC – 15 July 2020


ICC Office of the Prosecutor Implements New Policy to Promote the Inclusion of Children in the International Criminal Justice Process

By: Rebecca Pioso

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands – On December 8, 2023, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor implemented the “Policy on Children” to address the worldwide suffering that children face regarding their historic underrepresentation and lack of appropriate engagement with the criminal justice process.

Cover Page of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor Policy on Children | Photo courtesy of ICC Office of the Prosecutor.

The ICC’s Rome Statue grants the ICC jurisdiction over international crimes involving genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression. Article 54 of the Rome Statute mandates that the Office of the Prosecutor devote special consideration to investigations and prosecutions against children. Children have the right to partake in the criminal justice process, just as adults are. However, the ICC has acknowledged the routine failure of tribunals to appropriately include children in international criminal justice processes, which in turn violates their human rights.

Addressing children’s participation in the international criminal justice processes is crucial. Nearly one third of the global population is under eighteen years of age, yet children’s experiences and their key roles within the accountability processes are largely overlooked or otherwise ignored based on misconceptions, stereotypes, and failures to devote appropriate resources to support proper methodologies that account for the specific needs of each child. For example, tribunals traditionally have an adult-centric view which largely excludes children and often stereotype them as a homogenous group, regardless of their unique needs and capacities. Moreover, crimes impacting children are routinely under-reported, under-investigated and under-prosecuted.

The ICC has recognized the necessity of improving the understandings of and adaptation to children’s experiences and facilitating their engagement in the international criminal justice processes. The Court has committed to increasing children’s access to justice by implementing a children’s rights approach. It will ensure that children’s voices will be affirmatively heard in each case and situation that they are involved in under the Rome Statute so that their unique vulnerabilities and the manners in which they are targeted and ultimately impacted based on their status in society regarding their physical, mental, psychological development, and ability to engage with criminal justice process, can be better understood.

The Prosecutor’s new has specific objectives to:

  • Remedy the historic lack of representation and engagement of children in the international criminal justice process.
  • Bring attention to the viewpoint that crimes under the Rome Statute can be committed against and impact children.
  • Ensure that, in all dealings with children, the Office of the Prosecutor takes a child rights, child-sensitive, and child-competent approach that is guided by the child’s best interests.
  • Actively adapt and reflect topics including intersectionality, children’s developmental stages, their capacities and abilities.
  • Re-emphasize the Office of the Prosecutor’s commitment to building an international community that facilitates effective investigation and prosecution of crimes against children.
  • Promote the exchange of knowledge regarding best practices and accountability efforts.

The Policy focuses on recruitment, training, external collaboration, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation, with the goal of promoting a more effective and equitable system for prosecuting crimes against and impacting children. The Policy also reflects the ICC’s awareness of their place within a global ecosystem of accountability, and specifically, the Office of the Prosecutor’s commitment to broadening and then reflecting its understanding as to the unique impacts of Rome Statute crimes involving children, and to improving the processes for effectively including children in the international criminal justice processes.

For further information, please see:

ICC – How the Court Works – 2024

ICC Office of the Prosecutor – Policy on Children – Dec. 2023

ICC Office of the Prosecutor – Statement by ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan KC – 8 Dec. 2023

ICC Office of the Prosecutor – Policy on Children (2016) – Nov. 2016

ICC Investigates Alleged War Crimes in Ukraine

By: Tiffany D. Johnson

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands – The International Criminal Court (ICC) has taken bold steps towards addressing alleged war crimes in Ukraine. It first dispatched a 42-member team for a comprehensive investigation in 2022. This move was particularly noteworthy considering Ukraine’s status as a non-member state of the ICC.

Prosecutor General of Ukraine Andriy Kostin and ICC Registrar Peter Lewis during the signing of the agreement on 23 March 2023 in The Hague, The Netherlands | Photo Courtesy ICC-CPI

The ICC also filed charges against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian bureaucrat, Maria Lvova-Belova, for the unlawful deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, in violation of Article 8(2)(a)(vii) and Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute. Most recently, ICC established of a country office in Ukraine in March of last year, marking a pivotal moment in the Court’s engagement with non-member states.

Despite Ukraine’s status as a non-party to the Rome Statute, under Article 12(3) of the Statute, it has twice exercised its prerogatives to accept the jurisdiction of the Court over alleged crimes under the Rome Statute that have allegedly occurred on its territory. In its initial declaration, the Ukrainian government acknowledged the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction over crimes allegedly committed on its territory between November 21, 2013, and February 22, 2014. The second declaration expanded this period indefinitely to include ongoing accusations of crimes committed across the entirety of Ukraine starting on February 20, 2014. The ICC’s decision underscores its commitment to fostering cooperation and addressing alleged human rights abuses even in the absence of formal membership.

The establishment of a country office signifies a strategic effort by the ICC to enhance its presence on the ground, facilitating direct collaboration with local authorities, civil society, and other stakeholders. This development reflects the ICC’s dedication to transcending geopolitical boundaries and ensuring the pursuit of justice is not confined by legal technicalities.

The ICC’s mandate is primarily rooted in the Rome Statute, an international treaty that governs the Court’s jurisdiction over the most serious crimes of international concern. Early February 2023, the ICC Prosecutor submitted applications to Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court for warrants of arrest in violation of Article 8(2)(a)(vii) and Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute. To be classed as crimes against humanity, attacks must be part of what the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, calls “a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population”. While Ukraine is not a party to the Rome Statute, the ICC can exercise jurisdiction under specific circumstances, such as when the alleged crimes were committed on the territory of a state that is a party to the Statute or when the United Nations Security Council refers a situation to the ICC.

The decision to investigate a non-member state raises important legal and diplomatic questions. It underscores the ICC’s willingness to address alleged crimes even in the absence of formal membership, emphasizing the Court’s role as a global arbiter of justice. However, it also brings to the forefront the delicate balance between the ICC’s pursuit of justice and the principles of state sovereignty.

The ICC’s actions in Ukraine may set a precedent for future cases involving non-member states, encouraging a collaborative approach to address impunity and hold perpetrators accountable. On the contrary, the ICC must navigate potential diplomatic challenges and ensure that its investigations are conducted impartially to maintain credibility and legitimacy. The Court’s success hinges on its ability to gather evidence, cooperation with local authorities, cooperation by states around the world, and protection of witnesses and victims. It provides an opportunity for Ukraine to actively participate in the pursuit of justice for alleged crimes committed within its borders, fostering a sense of shared responsibility in upholding international human rights norms. This investigation showcases the ICC’s commitment to its mandate, even in the face of geopolitical complexities. The outcome may not only shape the trajectory of justice in Ukraine but also influence the ICC’s approach to non-member states in the years to come.

For further information, please see:

UN – Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, U.N. Doc. A/CONF.183/9 – 1998

UN – United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/147, Establishing the International Criminal Court – 2006

ICC – Ukraine and International Criminal Court sign an agreement on the establishment of a country office – 23 March 2023

ICC – Statement by Prosecutor Karim A. A. Khan KC on the issuance of arrest warrants against President Vladimir Putin and Ms. Maria Lvova-Belova – 17  March 2023

Al Jazeera – ICC sends 42-member team to probe alleged war crimes in Ukraine – 1 May 2022

International Human Rights Law Review – Will the International Criminal Court (icc) Be Able to Secure the Arrest of Vladimir Putin When He Travels?, Vol. 12, Issue 1 – 2023

ICC Office of the Prosecutor Aims to Strengthen the Investigation and Prosecution of Gender-Based Crimes Through New Policy

By: Remy Kane

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – On December 4, 2023 the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) published a new policy focused on gender-based crimes (GBC), including those that are sexual and reproductive in nature, along with crimes that may not traditionally be considered GBC. These crimes often manifest as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide. The Policy takes a “survivor-centered, trauma-informed approach” to the investigation and prosecution of GBC, aiming to keep victims, survivors, and witnesses at the forefront.

Cover Page of the Office of the Prosecutor’s recent policy on addressing and combating gender based violence | Photo Courtesy of the ICC, Office of the Prosecutor

Article 54 of the Rome Statute imposes a duty upon the ICC Prosecutor when investigating and prosecuting crimes to “take into account the nature of the crime, in particular where it involves sexual violence, gender violence, or violence against children.” In the near-decade since the 2014 OTP Policy Paper on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes, it has become evident that fulfillment of this mandate requires greater attention.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of gender-based crimes go without redress. The Policy’s executive summary refers to a “myriad factors including discrimination, stigma, underreporting, and survivors’ reservations about law enforcement and judicial systems” as the reason. In addition, the Policy acknowledges that GBC is often taken less seriously and prosecuted with less zeal than other crimes.

To combat this lack of accountability, the new Policy presents a revamped version of its 2014 counterpart offering greater guidance on how to effectively handle GBC. The Policy sets forth the following objectives:

  1. “to affirm the Prosecutor’s commitment to the rigorous investigation and prosecution of GBC, to help remedy the historical neglect of these crimes;
  2. to clarify key concepts and articulate fundamental principles underlying the Office’s work on GBC, mainstreaming a gender perspective and gender competence throughout the Office;
  3. to integrate a survivor-centred and trauma-informed approach in the Office’s work with victims and witnesses exposed to GBC and other atrocity crimes;
  4. to provide clarity and broad direction as to the interpretation and application of the Statute, the Elements of Crimes and the Rules, at all stages of the Office’s work, so as to ensure the effective investigation and prosecution of GBC throughout;
  5. to contribute to the development of international jurisprudence and best practice regarding accountability for GBC at the ICC and beyond.”

Kim Thuy Seelinger, former Special Adviser on Sexual Violence in Conflict, and the Office of the Prosecutor’s first Senior Coordinator for Gender-based Crimes and Crimes Against or Affecting Children, led the review and drafting process for the Policy. Seelinger is a research associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis’s Brown School as well as a visiting professor at the University’s School of Law. In addition, she is the director of the Center for Human Rights, Gender and Migration at the University’s institute for Public Health. Seelinger noted that the Policy’s survivor-centered, trauma-informed approach is “critical for the well-being of those we engage and also the quality of the evidence we put forward.”

For further information, please see:

ICC – Statement by Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan KC on New Policy – 5 Dec. 2023

ICC – Policy on Gender-Based Crimes –  Dec. 2023

ICC – Policy Paper on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes – June, 2014

Seelinger Helps Draft New ICC Policy on Gender Crimes – Dec 11, 2023

ICC Drops 20 Charges of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity Against Central African Republic Leader

By: Christina Bradic, Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

The Hague, Netherlands – On October 16, 2023, the International Criminal Court (ICC) dropped war crime charges against Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka, of the Central African Republic. This is only the third time in the history of the court that an ICC prosecutor has dropped a criminal case.

Maxim Mokom in October 2020, when he was Minister of Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Repatriation (DDRR) in the Central African Republic | Photo courtesy of Justice Info, Minusca

On March 14, 2022, Mokom was arrested in Chad. Authorities subsequently surrendered him to the ICC. Prior to dropping his case, Mokom was facing twenty charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from actions in 2013 and 2014 when Mokom was the National Coordinator of Operations of the Anti-Balaka. Charges included murder, torture, extermination, deportation, and persecution.

In the Central African Republic in 2013, President Francois Bozize was ousted during a coup led by Seleka, an alliance of predominantly Muslim armed rebel groups. In response, Anti-Balaka, an alliance of predominantly Christian militia groups, executed reprisal attacks, including ones targeting Muslim civilians. Violence between the two groups escalated. By mid-May of 2014, it was estimated that thousands of people were killed and more than 750,000 people, majority Muslim, were forcibly displaced. During this time, Mokom, as a leader of Anti-Balaka, was suspected of the war crimes of directing attacks on civilian populations, an attack on humanitarian assistance personnel, and enlisting children as fighters.

The Prosecutor of the ICC informed the judge last week that with the available evidence and changed witness and testimonial availability, there is no longer “reasonable prospect of conviction.”

Mokom has continually denied the court’s charges and any involvement in attacks on Muslim civilians. In a statement he said that he is, “dedicated to the search for peace.” He also holds that he was a refugee in the Democratic Republic of Congo for a significant portion of the period during which the charges occurred. The defense team is considering asking for compensation for the 19 months during which Mokom was held in the court’s detention facility in Scheveningen, The Hague, Netherlands.

A lawyer representing the victims expressed disappointment, calling this outcome, “unfair and a betrayal,” and stating that victims were, “sad and immensely disappointed.” The case prosecutor said in a statement, “I am very conscious that this news may be unwelcome to many survivors and their families, [and] I hope many will understand my legal and ethical responsibilities to be guided by the law and the evidence.”

The action to withdraw charges was without prejudice, allowing a new trial if additional witnesses or evidence becomes available in relation to crimes under the court’s jurisdiction.

For further information, please see:

ABC News – ICC drops war crimes charges against former Central African Republic government minister – 19. Oct. 2023 

Africa News – Central African Republic ex-militia leader released by ICC – 20. Oct. 2023

France 24  –  Ex-CAR militia leader freed by ICC after all charges dropped – 20. Oct. 2023

ICC – Prosecutor withdraws charges against Maxime Mokom in the situation in the Central African Republic – 19. Oct. 2023

Radio France International – ICC releases Central Africa militia leader after dropping charges – 20. Oct. 2023