Tag Archives: pro-government

How to visit the International Criminal Court

English: International Criminal Court (ICC) logo

ICC logo

A recent day at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands was one of the most professionally interesting experiences I have had.  A Dutch friend took care of the logistics and in hindsight, I realize it was a surprisingly easy thing to do and and any foreigner could also visit. The Hague is the government seat of the Netherlands and just a 45-minute train ride from Amsterdam.  At the main station in The Hague, we rented bikes and peddled over to the Court using the maps functions on our smart phones. We found a surprisingly humble building, but later learned that the current building is an interim premises. Scheduled to open in 2015, the permanent premises designed by a Danish architectural firm will be located at Alexanderkazerne (Alexander Barracks), which will be closer to the detention center and be part of the International Zone of the Hague.

The Court’s lists their schedule on their website, http://www.icc-cpi.int/Menus/ICC/Home, and we chose to attend the hearings of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo and were especially interested in that of Laurent Gbagbo.  Bemba is a Congolese former military commander on trial since 2009 for “crimes against the civilian population, in particular, rape murder and pillaging” in the Central African Republic from 2002-2003. The first former head of state to be charged in the ICC, Gbagbo was the President of Cote d’Ivoire and is accused of using murder and sexual violence to try to maintain power after he lost the 2010 election there. We were able to sit in on Bemba’s trial, but for reasons described in my post on the pro-Gbagbo demonstrations, we weren’t able to attend the latter’s pre-trial hearing.

I had expected a busy building, full of shuffling lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals, but that was so in the morning during Bemba’s hearing.  It was virtually empty except for the single guard at the security checkpoint and three employees at the front desk.  A Dutch man and Ghanaian woman greeted us after the security point. They instructed us as to the proper decorum in the public viewing gallery of the court. The rules were what anyone should expect them to be inside a courtroom, including no talking, gesturing, pointing, or use of recording devices. Visitors must also rise when the judges enter and leave the courtroom.

After depositing our bags and valuables in the lockers between the reception and the public viewing gallery, a security guard led us into the gallery.  It was so small, and more exciting for me, we could sit right in the front row just 30 feet from Bemba himself, with nothing dividing us but a wall of glass.  He is a physically huge man, and sat back in the very corner of the room wearing a seat and tie, looking extremely bored. When the two of us sat down he looked at us, probably wondering why we were there.  It happened to be a closed session, so we could watch but could not hear anything (Gbagbo’s later afternoon session was open with audio). For anyone who plans to visit, if you take a seat nearer the door to the gallery, that will put you near the prosecution, and if you walk further into the room, that puts you near the defendant.  I am not sure if that means we were symbolically supporting Bemba since we sat nearer the defense side of the room, support which we obviously had not intended to give, but the far side is certainly a more interesting vantage point to view the accused. Here is the layout of the courtroom that the front desk gave us, and we sat in the top left corner of the Public Gallery squares to see Bemba up close:

It was heartening to see that the three presiding judges were all female and from different regions of the world.  In fact, I was quite pleased with both the gender and geographic balance of the Court. The ICC’s staff of judges seems to be exactly half male and half female, and there is a good number of judges and other legal actors from the global south and smaller countries working at the ICC. (There are no American judges since G. W. “unsigned” Clinton’s signature on the Rome Treaty that founded the ICC and thus the U.S. is not a party.) The prosecution and defense teams, as well as the legal representatives for the victims, are lead by sub-Saharan Africans. The lead Prosecutor is a Gambian named Fatou Bensouda, who also worked on the Rwanda Tribunal, while Aime Kilolo-Musamba heads the Defense Council (paid for by stipends out of Bemba’s frozen accounts).

Admittedly, we observed Bemba’s trial for less than an hour because there wasn’t much to take in because of the lack of audio. For anyone else who would like to see international human right law at work, I would suggest making sure that the case is “open” with audio.  Another piece of advice is to really take advantage of the expertise of the ICC employees at the front desk.  We chatted with an extremely helpful Ghanaian woman in charge of disseminating information on the court to visitors, and she was a trove of information that just can’t be found anywhere else.

I went, I saw, I learned.

PDP Candidate is the New Governor of Bayelsa State

Yes, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in Bayelsa, Henry Seriake Dickson, won over 90 percent of votes in Saturday’s gubernatorial election, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission. The previous governor, Timipre Sylva, was barred from running again for allegedly threatening the President.

Timipre Sylva

Reuters reported that at least one person was killed and several injured at a pre-election rally on Tuesday and turnout during Saturday’s ballot was low due to security concerns. The state deployed around 15,000 police to deter any potential unrest. Around 800 people were killed after last year’s presidential election in three days of violence between rival supporters and in clashes between Christian and Muslim gangs.

Some opposition parties refused to accept the result, saying there were irregularities, including ballot box snatching, multiple voting and harassment of party officials. Such accusations follow most Nigerians elections so they are not surprising.

This election matters for three reasons.  First, the federal government doles out oil revenues to states, and then states are supposed to in turn distribute funds to localities.  However, localities rarely receive the sums allotted to them because of state-level graft, so governors are key players in determining the degree of corruption in Nigeria. Second, Bayelsa is considered to be the hub of militant activity so the strength of leadership there has a resounding impact on the Niger Delta crisis and foreign companies’ comfort in investing in Nigeria.  Third, having a PDP governor in office in his home state undergirds Jonathan’s presidency, as he was elected in large part because of professed ability to coordinate easily  with state politicians there to handle security more effectively.

Henry Dickson is the new Bayelsa State Governor.

Nigeria: Elections and Violence in the Niger Delta

deltalaine:

These renewed attacks by MEND indicate that the amnesty program, which offers salaries and job training, was only a temporary palliative. Buying off a few fighters simply opens up positions for new recruits to join MEND. In terms of the elections, it will be interesting to see how renewed violence affects the message that candidates send to voters, although most believe Seriake Henry Dickson already has a win secured.

Originally posted on Sahel Blog:

The Niger Delta is back in the news, both for the (alleged?) return of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND – read a backgrounder here) and for the upcoming gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa State, which was the site of a bitter primary election in November. Different sources give different views on how closely the recent oil violence is connected to Bayelsa’s electoral calendar. But clearly the Niger Delta is facing renewed political tension and renewed violence at the same time.

Nigeria last held national elections, including gubernatorial contests, in April 2011, but since then various governors have faced court challenges to their legitimacy. Some have won and remained in office, but others have not. On January 27, the Supreme Court removed five governors from office (for the back story, see here). The situation in one of these states, Kogi, is complicated by the…

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Occupy Nigeria, Port Harcourt, Day 4, Fuel Subsidy Removal Supporters [video]