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28 October 2016 by Sebastian Green Martinez

On September 27, the International Criminal Court (ICC) delivered its judgment in the case of Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi. The Islamist was sentenced to nine years for the single war crime of attacking protected objects. The case was hailed as a great success. It was short trial, the court's first guilty plea followed by a swift verdict [IJTblog]. But by accepting the prosecutor's arguments that Al Mahdi was only guilty of a single war crime, was the population of Mali let down badly? 

--- In this special guest blog for IJT by Sebastian Green Martinez,  lecturer at the University of Buenos Aires, who has followed the Al Mahdi case closely, argues the court should have tried the Malian for persecution over the destruction of mosques and mausoleums in Timbuktu---  

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South African president Jacob Zuma with his Burundi counterpart Pierre Nkurunziza in February 2016 (Photo: Flickr/GCIS)
24 October 2016 by Benjamin Duerr

Two countries announced their withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) last week. The decisions of the governments of Burundi and South Africa are motivated by domestic politics and fit a broader development seen in other countries: scapegoating international affairs for local failures.

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Women in front a the memorial in Potocari cemetary that lists the names of the Srebrenica dead (Photo: Flickr/RNW)
07 October 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg

After the supreme court ruled in 2013 in the Nuhanovic case [IJT- 173] that the Dutch state was liable for at least three deaths of Bosnian Muslims who had sought refuge on the UN compound in Srebrenica manned by Dutch troops after the fall of the enclave, there has been a constant battle between the state and representatives of the victims trying to expand the Dutch liability to include more victims.

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Defence lawyers Mohamed Anouini and Jean-Louis Gilissen at the ICC (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
01 October 2016 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

In chapter seven of Thierry Cruvellier’s book ‘Court of Remorse’ about the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), he described the two defence lawyers, Belgian Jean-Louis Gilissen and Tunisian Mohamed Aouini as inseparable. “You never saw one without the other. They were always chatting. They had the same walk, the same honest handshake with their bodies learning forward slightly to convey sincerity, matching smiles and identical moustaches.”

Fast-forward fifteen years, and the same two were again tag teaming, this time at the ICC. They were representing their client Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi during the shortest trial the court has ever seen in its own short history. From Mahdi’s arrest warrant in September 2015 when he was already in the custody of the authorities of Niger , to a judgement and sentencing, has been little more than a year. That’s because Al Mahdi pled guilty and his lawyers Gilissen and Aouini negotiated a deal with the prosecution that allowed judges to give him a sentence of nine years for the single war crime of cultural destruction, safe in the knowledge that the prosecution would not appeal.

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Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic in the dock at the ICTY in June 2011 (Photo: Flickr/ICTY)
28 June 2016 by Iva Vukusic The Hague

The trial of Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) recently heard what is likely its last witness, Russian colonel Andrei Demurenko, invited by the defense to testify in relation to one mortar attack that killed around 40 and wounded over 70 people in a crowded Sarajevo market in August 1995. His testimony went on for hours, discussing projectiles, trajectories, meters and degrees, with the witness frequently evading giving clear, short answers.

His testimony is based on an investigation he claims he conducted while working for the UN protection force UNPROFOR in Sarajevo. That investigation showed, according to the witness, that the Bosnian Serb army could not have been responsible for the massacre. The testimony ended abruptly when Demurenko checked out of his hotel and never showed up to answer the final questions. The Russian colonel may have left suddenly because he did not like the questions of the prosecution, or because the presiding judge rejected his request to shake hands with Mladic in court. The unusual ending made me reflect on outreach and how it can be successful when what goes on in the courtroom is dull, or simply bizarre.

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Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo in the ICC courtroom during the delivery of his verdict on 21 March 2016 (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
13 April 2016 by Benjamin Duerr, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Jean-Pierre Bemba who was convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in March, is one of the richest men in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Research suggests parts of Bemba's wealth stems from Dutch brewer Heineken.

In March the ICC convicted Bemba of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by his troops in the Central-African Republic [IJT-191, blog].

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Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo in the ICC courtroom during the delivery of his verdict on 21 March 2016 (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
21 March 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday ruled that Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba's troops raped, murdered and pillaged civilians in the Central African Republic and that he, as their commander, could be held criminally responsible. The ruling is a historic one for the ICC as it is the first time the court has handed down convictions for sexual and crimes and also a first conviction on the basis of command responsibility [IJT-191].

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Prosecution picture of Malian ICC suspect Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi preaching to the crowd at the destruction of a Timbuktu shrine (Photo: Janet Anderson)
01 March 2016 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

If you listen to the prosecution’s presentation at the ICC today, Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, an Islamist from Timbuktu, was not only an expert in Islamic law – and recognised as such by his peers – a recruiter and an active member of the Islamic group Ansaredinne, but, most importantly, the ringleader behind the destruction of nine shrines in 2012.

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Ivorian ex-president Laurent Gbabgo at his confirmation of charges hearing at the ICC in February 2013 (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
27 January 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg, The Hague (The Netherlands)

As the International Criminal Court (ICC) prepares to try its first former head of state when Ivory Coast's ex-president Laurent Gbagbo goes on trial in The Hague Thursday many question if the ICC is balanced in trying only the leadership of one side in the post-electoral violence.
 

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Lady justice, Williamson county court house (Photo: Flickr/Jack)
06 January 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg, The Hague (The Netherlands)

The range of justice processes across the world is continuing to become more multi-faceted each year – and 2016 is no exception. But while providing fodder for the burgeoning groups of academics considering the significance and influence of the wide variety of courts, there is no sense that the world has settled on an ideal format with which to hold perpetrators of violence during conflicts to account. The plurality is the grist to IJT’s mill. For the year ahead, there are significant cases – and institutions – coming to an end, while other sagas continue.

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