ICC Rights Watch

First American ICC Case: What is Going on in Venezuela?

By: Alessa Rodriguez

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuela is a rarely talked about South American country handling corruption and instability that is impacting its people so much that the ICC has been investigating the government since 2018. It is currently being led by Nicolas Maduro, and since his presidency the country has been repressing its citizens from speaking up as to the conditions of their country. Six ICC countries have asked the prosecutor to investigate the potential crimes in Venezuela, the first time countries have jointly asked for an investigation into another ICC member country and one of the first cases in the Americas region.

Protestor wearing sign saying “there is no food.” Photo Courtesy of AFP/Getty Images.

The violations and crimes being alleged are part of a widespread and systematic attack against the population. The allegations include crimes against humanity of imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty; torture, rape, and other forms of sexual violence; persecution against identifiable groups on political grounds by civilian authorities, members of armed forces, and government supporters.

Such commanders and superiors should have known about the crimes and did not take measures to prevent or repress them, they may have committed the abuses and covered them up, allegations say. Between 2016 and 2019 police and security forces killed nearly 18,000 people for alleged resistance to authority, the people were seen as government opponents, so agents executed them during raids after anti-government protests. The UN has also concluded that the authorities and pro-government groups had committed the violations, amounting to crimes against humanity.

In April 2021, the Human Rights Watch documented new cases, alleging that there is a pattern of systematic abuses that have led to international inquiries. A court filing from June of that year concluded that the authorities were unwilling to investigate or prosecute the cases because the domestic government had shielded people from criminal responsibility and that those proceedings have not been conducted independently. It has been determined that the Judiciary, Venezuela’s Supreme Court, has stopped functioning as an independent branch of government and is complicit in the abuses.

As of now, there is still no real conclusion to the investigation, nor has there been any trials.


For further information, please see:

Council on Foreign Relations – Instability in Venezuela – 6 Jan. 2023

Human Rights Watch – News – Venezuela: ICC Investigation Opens – 3 Nov. 2021

ICC – Investigations – Venezuela – Situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela – Feb. 2018

Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka scheduled for confirmation of charges hearing on August 22, 2023

By: Amanda Zumpano

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -On February 3, 2023, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that there would be a confirmation hearing on August 22, 2023 in the case The Prosecutor v. Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka. The court believes that a charges hearing in August will be “an appropriate balance between the fair administration of justice and the need to ensure expeditiousness”.

At this hearing, the court will determine if there is enough evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that Mokom committed each crime that has been charged. The case will be transferred to the Trial Chamber if the cases are confirmed and then trial will commence.

Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka appearing before the ICC judges. Picture courtesy of ICC-CPI

Mokom has been charged with crimes against humanity that include murder, extermination, torture and persecution. He has also been charged with several war crimes that consist of intentionally directing an attack against the civilian population, displacement of the civilian population, and mutilation. These crimes were committed mostly against the Muslim civilian population in the Central African Republic (CAR) and took place between December 5, 2013 and December 2014.

On March 2013, rebels known as Seleka seized power in the CAR, and their rise gave power to the Anti-Balaka. Mokom was responsible for coordinating these militias which committed crimes against civilians throughout the country. Tens of thousands of people were displaced due to the Seleka-controlled areas. The government tried to disband the Seleka forces but many ex-members committed counterattacks and caused chaotic violence and a humanitarian crisis in the CAR. UN peacekeepers have also been attacked and fifteen were killed in 2017. The ICC has been investigating the crimes since 2014. The Special Criminal Court (SCC), a UN-backed hybrid court is also permitted to prosecute crimes committed in CAR since 2003.

There was a warrant of arrest issued for Mokom on December 10, 2018 and the ICC took custody of Mokom when the authorities of the Republic of Chad surrendered him on March 14, 2022. The Chamber found reasonable grounds to believe that Mokom committed these crimes with the help of others or by furtherance of a policy that targeted the Muslim population and others perceived to support the Seleka.

The delay in obtaining justice for crimes under international law is often due to the difficulty in executing arrest warrants. Holding Mokom accountable is an important step forward in the fight against impunity in the CAR.


For further information, please see:

ICC – The Prosecutor v. Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka – 3 Feb. 2023

ICC – Mokom case: Confirmation of charges hearing scheduled for 22 August 2023 – 3 Feb. 2023

ICC – Mokom Case

Amnesty International – Chad/CAR: Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka must face justice at the ICC – 15 Mar. 2022

Associated Press – Central African Republic alleged rebel appears at ICC – 22 Mar. 2022

Global Conflict Tracker – Instability in the Central African Republic – 11 May 2022

Reuters – ICC says Central African Republic war crimes suspect surrendered – 15 Mar. 2022


ICC Prosecutor Announces Conclusion of Investigation Phase in Central African Republic

By: Sallie Moppert

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – After over a decade of investigations into the atrocities and crimes occurring in the Central African Republic, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it would be concluding the investigation phase into a situation being addressed by the Court. The ICC opened its first investigation into the Situation in the Central African Republic in May 2007. The goal of the investigation was to uncover and examine evidence of alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes during the armed conflict occurring in the Central African Republic (CAR) between July 2002 and July 2003. A second investigation was launched in September 2014 after a referral by the Government of the CAR, with this investigation looking into the alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes occurring between the armed groups Séléka and the Anti-Balaka since August 2012.

Muslim families in a neighborhood near Bangui, trapped by the violence occurring, make plans to flee their homes.
Photo courtesy of Human Rights Watch.

“Our work in the Situation in the Central African Republic is, however, far from over,” ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan KC explained in his statement. “My Office will now concentrate its efforts on ensuring the successful prosecution of those subject to arrest warrants and significantly deepening its cooperation with the Special Criminal Court for the CAR.”

Since the commencement of the investigations into the Situation in the CAR, several individuals have been arrested and charged with various crimes against humanity and war crimes. Two notable cases include that of Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona, who have been charged with a multitude of crimes, including intentional attacks against the civilian population, murder, rape, cruel treatment, mutilation, persecution, severe deprivation of physical liberty and recruiting child soldiers. Another ongoing case involves the confirmation of charges against Maxime Mokom, who has been arrested and transferred to the ICC in March 2022 for similar crimes. The Mokom case was recently postponed by the Pre-Trial Chamber on January 24, 2023.

“Since the opening of these investigations, my Office has examined evidence related to alleged crimes committed by all parties to the armed conflict. It carried out its work in an independent, impartial and objective manner, in partnership with survivors, civil society, and with fruitful cooperation of relevant national authorities,” Khan said. “In the discussions held between my Office and Central African Republic authorities, we have addressed a common vision through which the focus of action for accountability will now move to the domestic level, with the committed and meaningful support of my Office. My Office stands ready to continue its work with and alongside the authorities of the Central African Republic, survivors, the families of victims, and civil society in the task that lies ahead.”


For further information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Central African Republic: ICC Investigation Needed – 26 June 2014

ICC – Situation in Central African Republic II: Alfred Yekatom surrendered to the ICC for crimes against humanity and war crimes – 17 Nov. 2018

ICC – Situation in Central African Republic II: Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka surrendered to the ICC for crimes against humanity and war crimes – 14 Mar. 2022

ICC – The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim A.A. Khan KC, announces conclusion of the investigation phase in the Situation in the Central African Republic – 16 Dec. 2022

From Child Soldier to War Crimes Commander – ICC Confirms Registry Transmission of List of Individuals for Reparation Samples for the Victims of Dominic Ongwen

By: Tracy Acquan

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associates Articles Editor

THE HAGUE, Netherlands– On January 16, 2023, the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) approved a sample list of individuals for reparations relating to the alleged crimes of Dominic Ongwen. The Chamber was fully content that the “assembled sample of 205 victims” was “sufficiently representative of the universe of potential victims [in] regards to gender, age, alleged harm, alleged crimes, and alleged locations” of the crimes.

Children in Barlonyo, Uganda at the site of the war crimes. Photo courtesy of Open Democracy and Flickr/Roberto Maldeno.

This decision comes a month after the Appeals Chamber of the ICC rejected Dominic Ongwen’s appeal of Trial Chamber IX’s decision to find him guilty of war crimes. He was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment after being found guilty of “61 crimes, committed in Northern Uganda between July 1, 2002, and December 31, 2005.”  

Between the tender ages of nine to fourteen, Ongwen was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (“LRA”) “as he was walking to school in northern Uganda.” As the years went by, he rose in ranks from child soldier to commander in the LRA. Established in 1988 by Joseph Kony, the LRA is a Ugandan rebel group “currently operating in the border region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan.” The LRA is responsible for displacing and mutilating people, abducting “67,000 youth, including children for use as child soldiers, sex slaves, and porters.”  In March of 2010, Congress passed the “Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Recovery Act of 2009” as a measure to support and assist in efforts to disband the group, protect civilians, and restore peace to the people of central Africa. 

Popularly known as the “White Ant” Ongwen is accused of committing some of the most horrific crimes against humanity which include but are not limited to rape, torture, mutilation, abduction, and recruitment of child soldiers. During his appeal, Ongwen characterized himself as a victim, stating that “I’m one of the people against whom the LRA committed atrocities.” His defense of “mental disease or duress” was insufficient to absolve himself of punishment. Ongwen’s defense was unsuccessful in proving that he lived in a “constant state of fear.” The imminence element of duress requires a showing that the defendant lived with “a threat of death or serious bodily harm” on a “continuing basis.” Ongwen was described by witnesses as a “self-confident commander who had disobeyed orders.” He even had a contentious relationship at times with Joseph Kony.

The ICC’s decision to accept the sample list is a step towards the goal of obtaining reparations for the 4,065 victims of Ongwen’s crimes. After Ongwen’s conviction, many activists feared delays in the reparations phase of the proceedings due to procedural delays. The ICC wanted to accept a sample “sufficiently objective and statistically representative” of the victims. The victims would be randomly selected by the “Registry within five main categories of the victims in the case.” This includes crimes committed in the camp of Pajule IDP, the Odek IDP, Lukodi IDP, sexual and gender-based crimes, and crimes against soldiers. Moving forward the ICC instructs the LRVs to consult with the victims on whether they “consent to their identities being disclosed to the Defense.” Many victims hope that these proceedings will serve as a “recognition of the harms” they have faced at the hands of Dominic Ongwen, “The White Ant.”


For further information please see:

BBC-Dominic Ongwen-from child abductee to LRA rebel commander -6 May 2021

Counter Terrorism Guide-Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)

ICC-Decision on the Registry Transmission of List of Individuals and Relevant Information for Reparations Sample-16 Dec. 2023

ICC-Ongwen case: ICC Appeals Chamber confirms the conviction and sentencing decisions- 15 Dec. 2023

Opinio Juris-Managing Expectations of Victims and Sustaining Community Outreach-11 May 2022

The Conversation – Dominic Ongwen: how the case of a former child soldier exposed weaknesses in international criminal law- 16 Jan. 2023

The White House-Statement by the President on the Signing of the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009-24 May 2010

ICC Prosecutor Concludes the Investigation Phase in the Situation in Georgia

By: Leah Wilck

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – On December 16, 2022, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim A.A. Khan KC, released a statement concluding the investigation phase in the situation in Georgia. This comes 6 years after the Pre-Trial Chamber granted the Prosecutor’s request to begin investigating allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes by the Georgian armed forces, the South Ossetian forces, and the Russian armed forces during the 2008 international armed conflict.

Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan KC of the International Criminal Court. Photo courtesy of the International Criminal Court

In August of 2008, an international armed conflict broke out between Georgia and Russia over the region of South Ossetia. This conflict resulted in a reported 138,000 individuals displaced as well as hundreds of lives lost on both sides. The Office of the Prosecutor received information on behalf of 6,335 victims on the matter, leading to its decision to open an investigation. National authorities in Georgia and Russia had already taken domestic proceedings in conducting investigations, however, Georgia’s investigations were indefinitely suspended in March of this past year. Russian investigations are supposedly ongoing.

On June 30, 2022, the ICC delivered arrest warrants for three suspects based on reasonable grounds that they were responsible for war crimes including unlawful confinement, torture and inhuman treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, hostage taking, and unlawful transfer of civilians, in violation of the Rome Statute. As of now, the arrest warrants are out for Mr. Mikhail Mayramovich Mindzaev, Mr. Gamlet Guchmazov, and Mr. David Georgiyevich Sanakoev; however, all three are still at large.

In the press release, the Office of the Prosecutor stated that it is the belief of the office that another suspect, Mr. Vyacheslav Boris, who was the Major General in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and Deputy Commander of the Airborne Forces during these events, is now deceased. Furthermore, in the Press Release, Prosecutor Khan said, “I am not willing to continue to overpromise and underdeliver for survivors and the families of the victims. To achieve meaningful results, we must be robust in our analysis of how resources can be most effectively deployed to deliver the greatest impact for those affected by crimes falling within our jurisdiction globally.” While this is the first time in the 20 years since the ICC’s establishment that the Office has closed the investigation phase, Khan maintains work on the situation in Georgia is far from over, as is his work with other situations. Furthermore, he intends to continue to investigate and prosecute with the goal of promoting the core ideals of the ICC and the Rome statute.


For further information, please see: 

ICC – The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim A.A. Khan KC, announces conclusion of the investigation phase in the Situation in Georgia – 16 Dec. 2022

ICC – Situation in Georgia: ICC Pre-Trial Chamber delivers three arrest warrants – 30 Jun. 2022

ICC – ICC Prosecutor, Karim A.A. Khan QC, announces application for arrest warrants in the Situation in Georgia – 10 Mar. 2022

ICC – Georgia, Situation in Georgia, ICC-01/15, Investigation

Civil.ge – ICC Concludes Investigation Phase into 2008 Conflict – 16 Dec. 2022

AP News – ICC prosecutor ends Georgia, Central African Republic probes – 16 Dec. 2022