Thursday, November 18, 2010

Int'l Court looking at crimes in Nigeria, Honduras

Investigators at the International Criminal Court are conducting preliminary probes into crimes in Nigeria and Honduras to establish whether to open cases in those countries, the court's prosecutor said Thursday.

Luis Moreno Ocampo gave few details of what he called "preliminary examinations," which are the first steps toward possibly seeking indictments for war crimes or crimes against humanity.

He said one investigation was related to the coup in Honduras in June 2009 and was started after the court was sent reports of possible human rights abuses.

"There were different allegations," he said. "Massive tortures, thousands of people were arrested for one day. We are analyzing if this is under our jurisdiction or not."

Speaking to a small group of reporters at the court's headquarters in The Hague, Moreno Ocampo declined to discuss the Nigeria case further.

"We received many communications about crimes in Nigeria and Honduras," he said. "People who send the communications allege they are under our jurisdiction, so we are doing an assessment on that."

The International Criminal Court, which began work in 2002, is a tribunal of last resort, meaning it only launches cases in countries whose governments are unwilling or unable to prosecute atrocities on their territory.

All suspects in custody so far have been involved in African conflicts.

On Monday, the court will begin its most significant trial to date, against former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba for allegedly commanding troops who went on a rampage of murder, rape and pillage in Central African Republic in 2002-2003.

Moreno Ocampo said he expects verdicts in 2011 in the court's first two trials, which are against Congolese warlords.

He revealed little about one of the court's most contentious preliminary examinations — a bid by the Palestinian Authority to recognize the court's jurisdiction as a first step toward launching an investigation into alleged war crimes during the Gaza conflict that began in December 2008.

The outcome is significant; it touches on the question of Palestinian statehood, as the court can only be recognized by states.

Both the Palestinian Authority and Israel, along with international legal scholars and nongovernment groups, have presented arguments to the court.

Moreno Ocampo said his office was "fully briefed" on the issue, but gave no indication when a decision would be reached.

He also confirmed that he would issue two indictments in December naming six suspected instigators of deadly postelection violence in Kenya in 2007 and 2008 that left more than 1,000 people dead.

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