Haftar Announces Arrest of War Crimes Suspect Mahmoud Warfali

Cairo- In a surprising development, the Libyan army announced that one of its officers, recently accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of committing war crimes, is under arrest and is currently under investigation for the first time in the history of officials in the army that is led by Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

The general leadership of the Libyan National Army, the force that controls most of east Libya, said that a military prosecutor is investigating with Major Mahmoud al-Warfali, and it confirmed that “he was suspended from work and placed in custody on the case.”

The leadership’s statement stressed the readiness of the army to cooperate with the ICC and inform them of the course of the investigation and the conduct of the trial process.

It also praised ICC efforts to achieve stability and social security and protect peoples from the scourge of war and armed conflicts.

The statement, which was directed to the ICC, said: “We hereby inform you that the accused in your judicial appeal is currently under investigation by the Military Prosecutor in the same cases mentioned in the arrest warrant. He has been in custody since August 2, when Haftar ordered an investigation.”

The army’s leadership stressed its respect and commitment for international conventions, international humanitarian law and the teachings of Islamic Sharia.

It pointed out that “on several occasions, Haftar has emphasized the necessity of complying with these instructions and orders issued in particular, including respect for personal freedoms and the handover of terrorist detainees to the competent authorities.”

It also confirmed that it is not responsible of these acts and its perpetrators “because they represent only those who committed them,” noting that “the investigation with Warfali will follow the military law to ensure justice”.

According to the ICC, Warfalli “is alleged to have directly committed and to have ordered the commission of murder as a war crime” during seven incidents involving 33 people in June and July 2017 in and near Benghazi.

Moscow Supports Haftar’s Counter-Terrorism Efforts, Salama Meets Politicians in Misrata

Cairo- Russia had announced Tuesday that it supports the efforts exerted by Commander of Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar’s forces to combat terrorism while Haftar stressed his determination to continue the fight against terrorism until the liberation of all cities in Libya.

Haftar’s office said in a statement on Tuesday that the Russian message was received during his meeting with the Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu in the latter’s headquarter in Moscow.

The statement said that Shoigu expressed his appreciation for the great sacrifices made by the national army in the fight against terrorism and congratulated the Libyan leader and the Libyans for liberating the city of Benghazi from terrorist groups.

Shoigu stressed the Russian leadership will stand by the Libyan armed forces in their fight against terrorism in order to achieve security and stability in Libya and its regional surrounding, according to the statement.

Meanwhile, Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), announced the issuance of a warrant for the arrest of Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al-Werfalli, a senior Libyan military commander allied with Khalifa Haftar.

“I filed an under seal application with Pre-Trial Chamber I of the ICC for a warrant of arrest to be issued against al-Werfalli, a Major in the al-Saiqa forces, on charges of murder as a war crime under the Rome Statute for his direct participation in seven separate rounds of executions, in which a total of 33 people were murdered in cold blood in Benghazi or surrounding areas,” Bensouda said in a statement.

“Such egregious crimes, including the cruel and dehumanizing manner by which they were perpetrated against helpless victims, must be stopped. Accountability for atrocity crimes is better suited to advance the ends of peace and stability, not more violence,” the statement said.

Bensouda added that the Pre-Trial Chamber granted her request and issued a warrant of arrest against al-Werfalli, and that her office’s pursuit of justice and the fight against impunity in Libya continues.

However, she expressed concern that the challenge now is the execution of the warrant of arrest and the surrender of al-Werfalli to the custody of the ICC.

Bensouda also appealed to the international community to cooperate and assist Libya, as needed, to ensure the arrest and surrender of al-Werfalli to the ICC without delay and equally called on the UNSC to support such efforts.

For his part, newly-appointed UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame visited Libya’s third largest city of Misrata on Tuesday and held talks with political and community leaders of the city.

Salame, the special representative of the UN Secretary-General and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, met with officials of Misrata’s Municipal Council, community leaders and Misrata University students, and he discussed the city’s needs and future vision.

He also commended Misrata’s contribution to fighting terrorism, efforts to build one united, sovereign Libya and sacrifices made by the city’s residents to achieve stability and security across Libya. He stressed that Libya can emerge from the crisis despite challenges ahead.

Addressing the students in Misrata University, Salame vowed to be unbiased and to find a new mechanism for dialogue among the Libyan conflicting parties so that they reach a consensus to amend the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA).

Guterres Calls for Referring Syrian File to ICC

Syrian boys walk shoulder to shoulder in the rain at the Boynuyogun refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay province.

New York– UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reiterated his call for the need to refer the crisis in Syria to the International Criminal Court, accusing the Syrian regime of hampering the access of civilians to humanitarian aid.

In his report on Syria submitted to the Security Council on Tuesday, Guterres urged member states to support a neutral and independent international mechanism to investigate persons who are responsible for most dangerous crimes in Syria, in accordance with the international law.

“In light of the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4 and the continuation of attacks against educational institutions, markets, religious sites (…), I am still calling for referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court”, the UN secretary general said.

The report assessed the commitment of warring parties in Syria to the relevant UN Security Council resolutions during the month of April.

It added that the UN was able to deliver assistance to 350,000 civilians per week through joint aid convoys, while decrying constraints imposed by the Syrian regime on aid delivery.

For his part, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien noted that while there were significantly fewer reports of violence in some parts of Syria, “the consequences of the conflict continue to devastate lives.”

He also called for ending attacks and obstacles that prevent humanitarian workers from reaching the hundreds of thousands of civilians still trapped in the war-torn country.

“We must not lose sight of the fact that – all over Syria – millions of people, in locations inside and outside the four de-escalation areas, continue to suffer because they lack the most basic elements to sustain their lives,” he told the Security Council.

He added that last week, 30 children and women were injured in an attack by ISIS on besieged neighborhoods in Deir ez-Zor as they were lining up to collect water.

According to estimates, nearly seven million children are living in poverty and some 1.75 million are out of schools with another 1.35 million at risk of dropping out, he said.

Almost one in three schools have been damaged, destroyed, or otherwise made inaccessible.

“And even if the schools were intact, many would be unable to open, with almost one quarter of the country’s teaching personnel no longer at their posts,” O’Brien added.

Assad Avoids Justice

ICC

The torrent of violence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his operatives have rained down on his own people since 2011 — widespread kidnappings, torture, barrel-bombings and chemical weapons attacks — have led to mournful discussions of the dim prospects that Assad will ever be brought to trial for his atrocities. Yet the truth is that the US, and its stance toward the International Criminal Court at The Hague, have helped create many of the impediments to Assad’s prosecution.

The ICC, a permanent war-crimes tribunal, was established through negotiations among most United Nations members in the late 1990s, with the US playing a leading role. Since the Nuremberg trials after World War II, a global consensus had emerged that public trials of war-crimes charges and punishment of those responsible were indispensable to creating a lasting peace in a conflict zone, because dispassionate justice allows survivors to move forward without nursing grievances for generations about horrors that have gone unaddressed.

By the end of 2000, the US and 138 nations had signed the international treaty, called the Rome Statute, that created the court. Then in May 2002, the George W. Bush administration announced that it was “unsigning” the treaty and renouncing America’s obligations.

Many arguments were marshaled against membership, some of them understandable. Perhaps the most cogent objection is that no nation is more likely than the U.S. to be drawn into a peacekeeping role around the world. We would be less likely to do so if our soldiers had to bear the risk of a politically inspired prosecution in front of a criminal court thousands of miles from our shores, with procedures very different than our own.

As an exclamation point, Congress in 2002 passed the American Service-Members Protection Act, which authorized the president to order military action to free any armed forces member called to answer before the ICC. The move was ridiculed in Western Europe as “The Hague Invasion Act,” but the US continued to put diplomatic pressure on other nations, including Iraq, where American troops were fighting, not to participate in the Court.

The American turnaround has helped hobble the ICC. Renegade nations such as China, which failed to participate from the outset, have been able to avoid pressure from the global community by noting the US stance. Far more important, America’s example made it easier for other nations that had signed the Rome Statute also ultimately to fail to ratify it. Many are countries whose actions have often been alleged to violate international law: Iran, Israel, Russia and, most importantly, Syria.

As a result, the ICC has no jurisdiction over Syria and Assad. The UN Security Council could still refer the matter to the international court, but Syria’s ally, Russia, holds veto power there and has so far hindered efforts to call Assad and others to account. The UN has empowered two different bodies to gather evidence about the atrocities in Syria, but they have no forum in which to present it and Assad has said he and his administration “don’t care” about the UN efforts.

If US refusal to ratify the Rome Treaty were truly in American national interest, it could be excused, even if it provided shelter to someone like Assad. But Washington’s reluctance rests on a variety of assumptions that don’t stand up to scrutiny. Foreign prosecutors and investigators are never going to be crawling all over the US trying to imprison our soldiers. ICC jurisdiction is complementary, meaning it does not violate our sovereignty by supplanting our own justice system. The results of a good faith investigation by national authorities is conclusive on the ICC. The court acts only when the nation in question has refused to.

It is unimaginable that serious war-crimes charges against American troops would go uninvestigated by the Pentagon, once they came to light. Consider the convulsive response to the actions by our soldiers at the Baghdad prison, Abu Ghraib. Furthermore, if membership in the ICC sharpened the need to investigate and, when called for, to prosecute Americans in order to forestall action by the court, that would be a positive development, with our treaty obligations serving as a powerful antidote to the inclination of the military, like other institutions, to protect its own and sweep things under the rug.

Finally, the brute realities are that if the ICC ever mounted a prosecution against Americans that we regarded as biased or corrupt, we could withdraw from the treaty then. No nation on earth is strong enough to force Washington to remain. But the US would be standing on firmer moral ground by voicing principled objections in a particular case, rather than adhering to our current position, which is that Americans can commit crimes against humanity without our government being willing to formally guarantee a response.

In the meantime, the efforts by the US and other nations to undermine the Court have significantly weakened it. Stuck trying to preserve a fragile constituency, the ICC has become bogged down in a rigorous procedural regularity, because its only defense to charges of political motivation is to demonstrate a rigid adherence to its own rules.

That has meant that investigations drag on for years, while the lack of support from the US and other powerful nations like Russia and China has often left the court toothless in the face of the resistance. Russia, for example, has been under investigation since 2008 for its actions while invading Georgia.

In 13 years, the ICC has charged a mere 33 individuals, convicting only eight. Charges have failed against 10 defendants, with the other cases ongoing, or suspended because the defendants are fugitives or dead. Worse, all 33 defendants have been from Africa, which has led the court to be derided on that continent as a tool of Western imperialism, even though the conduct charged in these cases is appalling and could never be ignored by any responsible prosecutor.

Yet the US can hardly criticize the court for an ineffectiveness that we have done our best to create. Perhaps the most galling aspect of America’s refusal to participate is that it undermines our own policies and our frequent claims to be the world’s moral leader.

(Bloomberg)

African Union Commission Holds its 30th Summit, Mulls over Morocco’s Return

Sudan

Addis Ababa – The African Union (AU) will convene in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Monday with the participation of several leaders and officials as well as regional and international economic organizations.

The AU’s 54 member states will gather for a packed two-day meeting in which they will also have to elect a new chairperson after failing to do so at a Summit six months ago.

The members are expected to consider a divisive bid by Morocco to rejoin the bloc after almost 3 decades of leaving in protest at its decision to accept Western Sahara as a member, but announced its intention to rejoin last July.

The summit will also discuss several important issues including electing a new president, budgets to support peace process, and abolition of non-trade borders in Africa.

The commission will also consider withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC) if the court’s prejudice against Africa wasn’t treated.

Informed sources didn’t rule out the possibility that King Mohammed VI, king of Morocco, will give a speech before the AU after his country has been accepted to rejoin.

On Thursday, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, current chairperson of the African Union Commission, met with Salaheddine Mezouar, Moroccon Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, to put the final touches on Rabat’s return to the AU.

Although nothing was revealed about the meeting, it is evident that the meeting with Zuma indicates Morocco’s return amid a calm diplomatic atmosphere especially with its foes.

Ethiopia also hoisted the Moroccan flag in the streets of Addis Ababa with other countries’ flags.

Over the past few days, the Moroccan delegation avoided the press in Addis Ababa, as they seemed relaxed to the current situation after touring all over Africa lobbying for support to return to the AU.

Morocco expressed its relief in the return to the union after 40 states, out of the 54, showed their support.

There is a wind of change in the $200 million building gift from China to the AU. Yet, when looking at the pictures decorating the walls, one notices the imbalance of the union. There are pictures of members of the African Union Organization and others of the African Union Commission.

Another issue dividing African leaders is a growing discontentment over the International Criminal Court.

Burundi, South Africa and The Gambia decided late last year to pull out of the court, claiming it unfairly targets African nations. Others, such as Kenya, threatened to follow suit, but Botswana and Senegal argued in the court’s favor.

Since its establishment over 15 years ago, ICC only accused African leaders including the presidents of Kenya and Sudan, despite having open cases for crimes in East Europe, Middle East, and South America.

A document which had been circulated among top officials of the AU determined the strategy of withdrawal of the members if reform demands were not met. It calls for transparent international justice free of double standards.

The document also suggests that the countries targeted by the ICC should have the right to ask to postpone the court, a top official confirmed.

Despite its strong support from major foreign states, ICC is still incapable of dealing with some of the most dangerous wars in the world including the civil war in Syria.

Palestinian Authority Rejects Netanyahu’s Conditions to Resume Peace Talks

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Malki, center, waits on the steps of the International Criminal Court after answering questions of reporters in The Hague, Netherlands, Thursday, June 25, 2015.

Ramallah, Tel Aviv – The Palestinian Authority strongly rejected on Thursday a set of conditions presented by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the resumption of peace talks, including the recognition of Israel as a Jewish State and the continuous security control over areas located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.

The Palestinian Authority described the conditions as “insignificant and unworthy of a response”.

In this regard, Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad Malki said: “These are onerous conditions; [Netanyahu] will not find a single Palestinian, who will be ready to deal with them.”

Addressing a political and security committee at the Knesset, Netanyahu said that recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and its right to seal security control over the West Bank were two conditions that he would never abandon.

He added that settlements were not the core problem with the Palestinians.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Palestinian interior ministry said: “The unreasonable conditions set by Netanyahu have once again showed that he was neither looking for the resumption of talks nor seeking to establish peace with the Palestinians.”

“On the contrary, his remarks reflect his aim to hamper any international effort to resume peace talks,” the statement added.

The Palestinian foreign ministry called on the international community to assume its legal and humanitarian responsibilities towards the Palestinian Cause.

In the past, Netanyahu said that he would be in favor of a demilitarized Palestinian state if the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian foreign affairs minister said that he would present a dossier to the International Criminal Court on the Israeli illegal settlements.

In remarks to the official radio channel, Malki said that the Palestinian Authority would adopt a series of measures aimed at halting illegal Israeli settlements in territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

Philippines’ Duterte Threatens to Follow Russia’s ICC Exit

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to follow in Russia’s footsteps Thursday and withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), incensed at criticism from Western nations of his deadly drug war.

Russia formally withdrew its signature to the ICC’s founding Rome Statute on Wednesday, calling the tribunal’s work “one-sided and inefficient”.

Speaking in his home town of Davao city in the southern Philippines shortly before flying to Peru for a regional summit, Duterte said: “They (Russians) may have thought the ICC is (useless), so they withdrew their membership.”

The Philippines President expressed frustration about the West’s allegations of extrajudicial killings and its failure to understand his crackdown on narcotics. He also appeared to blame the United Nations for failing to prevent wars all over the world.

“I might follow. Why? Because these shameless bullies only picked on small countries like us.”

The world body has failed to stop wars that had killed “thousands” of women and children, he said.

The Philippines became a member of the ICC, the world’s only permanent war crimes court, in 2011.

“You know if China and Russia would decide to create a new order, I will be the first to join,” Duterte added.

Duterte won May elections in a landslide after vowing an unprecedented crackdown on illegal drugs and killing tens of thousands of drug dealers.

More than 4,000 people have been killed since he took office on June 30. About 1,800 were shot dead by police and about 2,600 others were murdered by unidentified attackers, according to official statistics.

The killings have drawn criticism from Manila’s key defense ally the United States as well as the U.N.

Duterte has struck back by calling U.S. President Barack Obama a “son of a whore” and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon a “fool”.

Last month the ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she was “deeply concerned” about thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, warning that those responsible could face prosecution.

Duterte has challenged Ban and international human rights experts to visit the country and investigate the allegations, while insisting his government has done nothing illegal.

On Thursday, ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima, Duterte warned his international counterparts, including Obama, not to lecture him on human rights.

“They will really get it from me, and I will lecture them on the finer points of civilisation,” he said.

“You threaten us as if we are your laborers and threaten to have me jailed. Me, go to jail? You children of whores I will take you all down with me.”

Moscow to Roll Back from ICC Membership, Russian Air Raids Kill 5 Children in Aleppo

Moscow announced on Wednesday its determination to formally withdraw its signature from the founding statute of the International Criminal Court, claiming that the tribunal has failed to live up to hopes of the international community.

Russia had signed in 2000 the Rome Statute of the ICC, which was established to prosecute war crimes. Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement it is withdrawing its signature on President Vladimir Putin’s orders.

What is more is that Russia’s extensive military campaign in Syria has gone a step further with its air strikes, hitting near a children’s hospital and a school in rebel-held eastern Aleppo on Wednesday.

The brutal raid is comes during the second day of renewed bombing that has killed at least 20 civilians, a war monitor, medics, and emergency workers said.

The air strikes are part of a wider escalation by the Syria regime and its allies including Russia, which launched coordinated missile strikes against Syrian Opposition zones on Tuesday and for the first time used its only aircraft carrier.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the air strikes on eastern Aleppo had killed at least five children and an emergency worker. They were carried out by either Russian or Syrian jets, it said. The Observatory said districts struck included Shaar, Sukkari and Karam al-Beik.

Tuesday’s bombing on eastern Aleppo appeared to mark the end of a pause inside the city declared by Russia on Oct. 18.

The Observatory and residents said the city’s east was hit by rocket strikes by jets, barrel bombs dropped from helicopters and artillery fired by government forces.

“The helicopters won’t stop for a single moment,” Bebars Mishal, a Civil Defense worker in opposition-held Aleppo, told Reuters. “Right now, the bombing won’t let up.”

The Civil Defense is a volunteer rescue service that operates in rebel-held areas.

ICC: U.S. Forces May Have Committed War Crimes in Afghanistan

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has said that she had a “reasonable basis to believe” that American soldiers committed war crimes in Afghanistan, including torture.

The international prosecutor has been considering whether to begin a full-fledged investigation into potential war crimes in Afghanistan for years. In Monday’s announcement, the prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, signaled that a full investigation was likely.

Still, the prosecutor did not announce a final decision on an investigation, which would have to be approved by judges, and it is unlikely that the United States will cooperate.

The United States is not a party to the court, which was established to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. But Afghanistan is a member of the court, so allegations of crimes committed in its territory, no matter the nationality of the perpetrators, are widely considered to be fair game.

The international court is under great pressure to show that it is unbiased in its targets for investigation. Almost all of its full-fledged investigations have focused on Africa, and in recent weeks three African nations — South Africa, Gambia and Burundi — have announced their intention to withdraw from the court.

Ms. Bensouda, in an annual report published Monday, said there was a “reasonable basis” for her to open investigations into “war crimes of torture and related ill-treatment, by U.S. military forces deployed to Afghanistan and in secret detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.” The focus, she said, would be mostly on any crimes that occurred in 2003 and 2004.

David Bosco, an Indiana University professor who follows the court, said the language of the report suggested that Ms. Bensouda was ready to seek its permission to proceed to an investigation in “a matter of days or weeks.”

Mr. Bosco said he was also struck by references in the report that signaled an interest to broaden her inquiry into prisoner abuse in secret detention facilities in other countries that belong to the court, including Poland and Romania.

The report also said she had found evidence of “torture and related ill treatment by Afghan government forces,” particularly by its intelligence agency and the police. War crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Taliban and its affiliated networks would also be a target of investigation, the report said.

The investigation could also set up a potential showdown with President-elect Donald J. Trump, who has said he supports torture as a tool of counterterrorism.

The rules of the court set a very high bar for the prosecutor to begin a full investigation. That can often take years to meet, frustrating the court’s critics and champions alike. The prosecutor has to conclude, for instance, that the courts in individual nations are not taking adequate steps to hold perpetrators accountable.

The prosecutor’s report said that American soldiers and CIA officials had, while interrogating detainees in American-run facilities in Afghanistan, “resorted to techniques amounting to the commission of the war crimes of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape.”

Soldiers subjected at least 61 detainees to these practices, and CIA officers did so to at least 27 detainees, mostly between 2003 and 2004, the report found.

“These alleged crimes were not the abuses of a few isolated individuals,” the report said. “Rather, they appear to have been committed as part of approved interrogation techniques in an attempt to extract ‘actionable intelligence’ from detainees.”

The report went on to note that American officials ordered that the practices be discontinued.

The prosecutor has come under criticism for not acting faster on the Afghanistan cases; she has blamed a lack of resources and cooperation.

The United States has assiduously sought to avoid scrutiny by the international court, arguing that its national authorities have investigated allegations of abuse. The prosecutor pointed out that American soldiers had not been prosecuted through the court-martial process.

As for the CIA officers, the Justice Department had carried out an inquiry into ill treatment of detainees. It decided not to prosecute anyone in connection to the death of a prisoner.

The report said it was still seeking clarity from the American authorities on the inquiries into the conduct of CIA officials before making a final decision on whether to open a full investigation. That decision would be made “imminently,” the prosecutor said.

The prosecutor’s annual report comes at a delicate moment for the court. Of its 10 current investigations, nine involve African politicians or warlords; the one exception is in Georgia.

The prosecutor’s 10 preliminary examinations — the prosecutor’s first look at a case before diving into a full-fledged investigation — are geographically broader, including inquiries in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian territories.

The New York Times

Gambia to leave International Criminal Court Next Year

Africa’s Gambia officially notified the United Nations of its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC), which will take effect on Nov. 10, 2017, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said on Monday, making it the third country to quit The Hague-based tribunal.

In October, Gambia’s Information Minister Sheriff Bojang described the ICC as “an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans.”

The tiny West African nation said in late October it planned to pull out of the ICC. South Africa and Burundi both notified the United Nations in October of their withdrawal from the court, which will take effect in one year.

The ICC’s current chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, is Gambian and was an adviser to Gambian President Yahya Jammeh in the early years of his rule after he seized power in a coup in 1994. She later served as justice minister.

The court, which opened in July 2002 and has 124 member states, is the first legal body with permanent international jurisdiction to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed regret that South Africa, Burundi and Gambia are leaving the ICC and said it could “send a wrong message on these countries’ commitment to justice.”