Convergence Media Articles

THE ICC & ICTY’S HISTORIC GUILTY VERDICTS

Last week was historic for the world of international justice, and indeed for The Hague, with both the International Criminal Court(ICC) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), issuing historic guilty verdicts to their perspective accused.

These verdicts will echo across the world as warnings.

Warnings that impunity will not be tolerated, and that the highest ranking officials will be held to the letter of the law.

The ICC’s case prosecutor Fatou Bensouda underlined the importance of these cases, stating that

What the [ICC’s] decision affirms is that commanders are responsible for the acts of the forces under their control. Those in command or authority and control positions have legal obligations over troops, even when they are sent to a foreign country. They cannot take advantage of their power and status to grant to themselves, or their troops, unchecked powers over the life and fate of civilians

Both the ICTY’s case against former Bosnian Serb politician, Radovan Karadžić, and the ICC’s case against Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) politician, Jean-Pierre Bemba, stretched across years.

During this time, there were many occasions when the press and the public have voiced their disheartenment over the length of proceedings, and scepticism as to whether the mandates of the courts, “to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, “ could be upheld.

Whispers of the impartiality and effectiveness of the international justice system have haunted these institutions for years – pouring fuel on the arguments of the accused – and those who would see their cases dismissed.

However, on the 21st and 24th of March, the cases finally came to a close with the ICC declaring unanimously that Jean-Pierre Bemba was guilty beyond any reasonable doubt – of two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes (encompassing murder, rape and pillaging).

And with the ICTY finding that Radovan Karadžić was guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war for his involvement during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Following the announcement of the ICTY’s verdict, Prosecutor Serge Brammertz, reaffirmed the courts pursuit of justice in the name of the many victims of such crimes, stating (in the Statement of the Office of the Prosecutor, on the 24th of March) that

In 1993, the world decided that victims in the former Yugoslavia deserved justice. For two decades now, those victims have put their trust in us to deliver it. Thousands came here to tell their stories and courageously confront their tormentors. Today, with this conviction, that trust has been honored. Justice has been done.

With the verdicts in, Karadžić has been sentenced to 40 years of imprisonment, and the Judges of the ICC will now consider the appropriate sentence for Bemba.

To find out more details about these cases, or to learn about upcoming and other on-going cases at these courts, please visit their prospective websites icty.org and icc-cpi.int.

To listen to a podcast version of this article, please go to DutchbuzZ Podcast: 29 Mar 2016.

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EXPLORING THE NEW ICC PERMANENT PREMISES

The new Permanent Premises for the International Criminal Court is officially opening it’s doors early December – and this week a few lucky journalists, myself included, got a sneak a preview of the facilities.

Upon arriving at the new site, located in the Duinzicht area of Scheveningen, I had to take a moment to absorb the sheer size and modernity of the structure! With it’s highest point standing at 42-meters it simply dominates the landscape and has a gravitas fitting for a court.

Situated only a stones throw away from Scheveningen’s rolling dunes one can’t help but imagine the breath taking views from the top floors. However, most of us will never get the chance to see them as these floors are dedicated to the victims and witness sections of the court and, as such, are strictly prohibited.

Unlike the old ICC building, nick-named the ARC, this purpose built court has been designed to meet every need the court could dream up…not only in functionality, but aesthetically too.

8 years in the making: from inception, to design, construction, completion …and a few more steps in-between. Every nook and cranny, every office, hallway, window and air vent has been designed to be as effective, efficient, green and of course secure as possible.

Head of Public Information and Documentation Section, Sonia Robla, poignantly noted that the building has been contracted and designed after 10-12 years of court experience. So, they have had more than enough time to know exactly what they require to operate most effectively.

The Danish architects commissioned for the project (Schmidt Hammer Lassen), were asked to incorporate the values of the court into their design by creating a feeling of openness and transparency. These values permeate the features of the building – and are highlighted by the conspicuous absence of the towering fences and walls surrounding the site.

Instead of an austere concrete fortress, you will see tinted windows covering the facade of the building, tilting at gentle angles to reflect the surrounding light. Once you pass security, a bridge carries you over a moat and into the warm and welcoming public section of the court.

This paints a sharp contrast to the old rented and re-purposed building the ICC is moving out of. Where before the court lay in the buildings basement (and old car park) and was adorned with long dark corridors that led the way to the public gallery, this new building welcomes guests into wide-open spaces, glass doors and natural light.

The main entrance leads straight into the heart of the building itself, the court, and strolling to the public viewing area, past a few security check points, could not be easier.

 

However, do not let appearances fool you into believing that this is anything other than a highly functioning court. Costing State Partiesclose to 206 million euros to build and move into, and housing around 1000 employees, including contractors and interns. This premises is purpose built to administrate justice in the safest and most efficient way possible.

According to a member of the ICC’s security team “The design brief for the building was to create something that didn’t look like a fortress, the security measures are such that they can secure the court and secure everybody that is in it,” he added that “ just because they are in a bigger building, it doesn’t mean that they need additional staff to ensure security.” Instead what they have done is embrace technology.

Some examples of such technology are the state of the art bomb blast resistant doors and windows…not to mention strict lock down procedures.

Other examples of this top-notch technology undoubtably reside in the court room itself – which retains all of the features of their previous e-courts. As is the case in the current building, the court facilitates multiple live translations and real time written transcripts.

These facilities are necessary for functionality, but additional security measures have been put into place too. These include:

  • Individual entrances for witnesses and the accused (keeping them separate at all times and ensuring the anonymity of sensitive witnesses).
  • Technology that delays all live audio and video recordings of the proceedings by 30 minutes, to give the court the opportunity to redact any sensitive information and/or insert facial and vocal distortions that can further hide the identity of a witness.
  • And importantly, a sub-room of the court that has been equipped with oneway glass so that the witness can get used to the court room before going in to give their evidence.

Ms Robla said that one of the best things about the new court is that it has been custom built to meet all of their functional and security needs. With separate areas for witnesses and accused.

Another of the reasons given for needing a new premises was the ever extending workload of the court, and the subsequent additional space they might require. During our tour we were shown how the building has been designed to accommodate future growth. While the court currently houses 3 courts, (one central large one and two smaller ones) there is in fact room for a fourth if the need arrises.

In spite of the buildings flexibility however, Ms Robla says that it is unlikely that they will see an increase in staff over the next few years.

The move from the old premises to the new, is happening in stages over the next couple of weeks, with the hopes of being fully functional by the end of December. And while the staff are excited by the move, a ICC staff  member noted that, anyone who has moved house in the past must appreciate that it is a rather stressful period too.

So from TheHagueOnline team, we wish them lots of luck.

For more information about the project, building it’s self and latest news please see the ICC’s Permanent Premises site.

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Poole raises awareness of ‘honour’ violence

Poole is hosting a conference to discuss honour-based violence and forced marriage on a national level.

There were 22 reports of honour-based violence and forced marriage in Bournemouth and Poole between April 2013 and January 2014, according to the Safer Poole Partnership.

The campaign group defines honour-based violence as any violence or abuse committed to protect the honour of the family or community. Forced marriage is where one or both partners are pressured into a marriage that they do not consent to.

Jasvinder Sanghera CBE, a survivor of  honour-based violence and forced marriage, is speaking at the conference on Friday.

She founded the charity Karma Nirvana which helps support victims.

“Karma Nirvana operate the National Honour Network Helpline that received 6,519 calls in 2013,” said Sanghera. “We received five calls from Dorset which indicates a clear need to increase reporting in this region.”

“We received 5 calls from Dorset which indicates a clear need to increase reporting in this region.” – Jasvinder Sanghera

Poole Council leader Elaine Atkinson said that while Poole is considered a low-crime area, it is not exempt from this kind of crime.

“People often don’t realise that honour-based violence and forced marriage can happen here,” she said.

Close to 3,000 cases of honour-based violence occur in Britain annually, according to research conducted by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation in 2011, but Karma Nirvana says the issue remains under-reported.

Councillor Atkinson said raising public and police awareness of this issue was imperative, so that the right kind of help can be offered to those who need it.

“The aim of this conference is to raise awareness of these crimes among front-line workers in a variety of roles – including social workers, police, school and college staff, and council workers – as well as community groups. It is essential that the people in these positions are able to identify and support those at greatest risk.”

The conference will be held on 6 March between 9.30am and 12.30pm at the Salterns Hotel as part of the lead-up to International Women’s Day on Sunday.

Speaking at the conference on Friday:

Jasvinder Sanghera CBE: Karma Nirvana

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Detective Superintendent Goode: lead investigator in the honour killing of 19-year-old Banaz Mahmood in 2006. Goode received the Queen’s Policing Medal for Distinguished Service and is now working to better educate British police about such cases.

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Lastly, John Montagu: Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for the Wessex region.

You can follow events on Twitter and take part in the live Q&A between 12pm and 1pm on Friday 7 March using the hashtag #HBVPoole.

Dorset Police’s Serious Crimes Investigations Manager, Detective Chief Inspector Jez Noyce: speaking on an anonymous local case study and what he has learnt through it.


Charities reap rewards from Bournemouth Marathon

Participants have been reflecting on the first Bournemouth Marathon Festival and their involvement in raising funds for local and international charities.

First-time marathon runner Guy Taylor raised £600 for the Barth Syndrome Trust during the event, which took place on 5-6 October.

“Run BMF was brilliant. It was so well organised and the support of the people in Bournemouth was fantastic,” Taylor said.

BMF 2013 Half Marathon - first wheelchair competitor - Daniel Cook(2)
Daniel Cook, Bournemouth Marathon’s first wheelchair competitor – Photo: Kathi Archery
(For the full photo gallery please go to my article on The Breakers website)

“It was the hardest thing I have ever physically done. It was more a day for sunbathing than running.” He added that he will definitely sign up to do it again.

Bournemouth University student, Ben Godbold, ran in support of Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research UK describes the feat as “tiring and a tough one, but a good one.”

“The hardest part was the 18th mile … running uphill and knowing you still have another eight miles to go when you reach the top. But the people made it, the best part was the finish line, the people cheering on the last mile” he said.

The festival hosted six races: the Bournemouth Marathon, the Half Marathon, two junior races for children, Supersonic 10k and the 5k Speed of Light.

Runners donned flashing LED armbands and fluorescent clothing for the nightime 5K Speed of Light race, which the marketing manager of the event, Kirstie Armsworth, described as a “human light show.”

Armsworth said it was a privilege to work with the runners.

“The Bournemouth Marathon Festival has been flooded with stories of runners telling us how taking part in it has made a difference to their life, if it be losing weight, raising thousands of pounds for charity or helping them get fit,” she said.

However this was not just an event for the runners, she added. “An event of this scale brings out community spirit and gives residents a sense of pride and coming together.”

Macmillan Cancer Support was the festivals official charity but organisations including the Stroke Association, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, RNLI, Cancer Research UK and Julia’s House were also represented.


BU student to run weekly marathons for cancer charity

A Bournemouth University student is attempting to run 52 marathons in 52 weeks to raise £10,000 for a cancer charity.

Sports student Ben Godbold’s effort is in honour of his cousin David Godbold, who died of leukaemia six years ago.

“If I inspire just one person, that will be enough,” said Ben.

If I inspire just one person, that will be enough” – Ben Godbold

David Godbold developed leukaemia at the age of nine and battled it until he was 20. Before he died, he asked one thing of his cousin: be an inspiration.

Since then Ben has worked hard to live up to his cousin’s wishes, balancing sports goals and charity work, which resulted in his selection as an Olympic torchbearer in 2012.

In addition to his current challenge, Ben says he hopes to become the first person to run 100 marathons before he is 23.

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Ben, now 21, started his challenge at the London Marathon this year. He explained that this mile-stone year has particular significance to him, as it is one that his cousin will never reach.

With 18 races under his belt, Ben says he has already raised around £5,000 for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, CLIC Sargent (for children with cancer),Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alicia Pannell.

Head of sports events at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, Dan Solley, said, “We are constantly inspired by the stories of those taking part in events for the charity and the dedication of our supporters like Ben.

“Every penny raised for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research will help us in our mission to beat blood cancer – stopping people from dying and making patients’ lives better.”

Ben says he intends to finish his challenge at the 2014 London Marathon, where he hopes to don a superman costume and skydive onto the starting line.

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