ICC TO PROSECUTE BRITISH WAR CRIMES IN IRAQ

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Chief Icc Prosecutor: Fatou Bensouda

The International Criminal Court (ICC) situated in the Hague has concluded preliminary examination on possible war crimes committed by British troops in Iraq following the ousting of Former President Sadaam Hussein. The Office has previously found, and has confirmed, that there is a reasonable basis to believe that members of the British armed forces committed the war crimes of willful killing, torture, inhuman/cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape and/or other forms of sexual violence. This is a country that normally prides herself as the paragons of championing human rights but ironically, it is at present accused of committing the worst human right abuses in Iraq.

Below is the report by Fatou Bensouda the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC following the completion of preliminary investigations on the allegations filed by some British investigators. 

Statement of the Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, on the conclusion of the preliminary examination of the situation in Iraq/United Kingdom

Today, I announce the conclusion of the preliminary examination into the situation in Iraq/United Kingdom (UK) following a thorough process. I have decided, as set out in my Office’s detailed report to close the preliminary examination and not to open an investigation.

In 2014, my Office re-opened the preliminary examination into the situation in Iraq/UK on the basis of new information received. Since then, my Office has been rigorously examining allegations of crimes committed by UK nationals in Iraq during the course of the UK’s military involvement in Iraq. In particular, the Office has focused on a sub-set of allegations related to the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees in UK custody.

The Office has previously found, and today confirmed, that there is a reasonable basis to believe that members of the British armed forces committed the war crimes of willful killing, torture, inhuman/cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape and/or other forms of sexual violence. The Office has identified a confined number of incidents to reach this determination which, while not exhaustive, appear to correspond to the most serious allegations of violence against persons in UK custody.

The Office further found that several levels of institutional civilian supervisory and military command failures contributed to the commission of crimes against detainees by UK soldiers in Iraq. In this respect, a key aspect that warranted scrutiny was whether the evidence available supported referring criminal charges against commanders and other superiors for such conduct.

The Office has found that the initial response of the British army in theatre at the time of the alleged offences was inadequate and vitiated by a lack of a genuine effort to carry out relevant investigations independently or impartially. The institution of public inquiries and the subsequent creation of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) in the UK were a response to the admitted failures of the British army at the time to conduct effective investigations.

The question for my Office was whether the subsequent investigations carried out by the UK authorities were genuine, or if there was evidence that potential perpetrators had been shielded from criminal justice.

The Office acknowledges the efforts made by the UK authorities, even if at a later stage, in setting specific mechanisms to address these allegations, and the relevant resources placed into investigating the allegations. Nevertheless, the outcome of the more than ten year long domestic process, involving the examination of thousands of allegations, has resulted in not one single case being submitted for prosecution to date: a result that has deprived the victims of justice. Although a handful of cases have been referred for prosecution, in each instance, prosecution was declined on evidentiary and/or public/service interest grounds.

This outcome has triggered apprehension among observers that either the underlying claims were vexatious, or, conversely, that the UK process was not genuine. Unpacking these issues has proven complex and accounted for the length and scope of the Office’s examination and the resulting report.

On the question of vexatious claims, the fact that the allegations investigated by the UK authorities did not result in prosecutions does not mean that these claims were vexatious. At most, it means that the domestic investigative bodies could not sustain sufficient evidence to refer the cases for prosecution, or on cases referred, there was not a realistic prospect of conviction in a criminal trial. As the UK authorities have admitted, a significant and recurrent weakness in the cases investigated was the dearth of forensic evidence and inconsistencies in witness testimony given the historical nature of the investigations, years after the events. While some of those factors are a common feature in the investigation of crimes of this nature, these results were also in large part due to the inadequacies of the initial investigations conducted by the British military in theatre.

At the same time, the fate of criminal inquiries contrasts with the large number of civil claims resolved either before the High Court, where the evidence was challenged and tested, or through out of court settlements. These have involved claims with respect to hundreds of victims alleged to have suffered conditions of detention and mistreatment amounting to inhuman or degrading treatment. Other public inquiries, commissioned reviews and policy mechanisms have concluded that practices which occurred during the early rotations of UK military deployments in Iraq fell below the required standards of conduct. In this context, the Office has found untenable the proposition that these various processes all arose from vexatious claims.

To assess genuineness, the preliminary examination has engaged in a detailed and complex assessment of numerous stages in the investigative and prosecutorial process leading to cases being filtered out or discontinued.

The Office also examined the extent to which the UK authorities looked at systemic issues and related questions of command and supervisory responsibility. It also conducted its own separate inquiry into reported allegations made by a number of former UK investigators concerning intentional disregarding, falsification, and/or destruction of evidence during the course of domestic investigations, as well as the impeding or prevention of certain investigative inquiries and the premature termination of cases.

The Office’s report has identified numerous concerns with respect to how specific decisions on certain matters were arrived at. The ICC, however, is not a human rights body called upon to decide whether in domestic proceedings, the requirements of human rights law or domestic law have been violated. Instead, it is tasked with determining whether it should exercise its own competence in a criminal case, in place of a State.

To do so, the ICC must be satisfied that no relevant proceedings have been undertaken, or if they have, that those proceedings were not genuine, either because the State is unable to undertake genuine proceedings, or because the State is unwilling to do so in the sense that it has taken steps to shield perpetrators from criminal justice. Given the range and scope of the allegations examined by IHAT and its successor, the Service Police Legacy Investigations, the Office assessed that it could not conclude that the UK authorities had remained inactive. Instead, the more relevant question was their genuineness.

If shielding had been made out, an investigation by my Office would have been warranted. Following a detailed inquiry, and despite the concerns expressed in its report, the Office could not substantiate allegations that the UK investigative and prosecutorial bodies had engaged in shielding, based on a careful scrutiny of the information before it. Having exhausted reasonable lines of enquiry arising from the information available, I therefore determined that the only professionally appropriate decision at this stage is to close the preliminary examination and to inform the senders of communications. My decision is without prejudice to a reconsideration based on new facts or evidence.

While this decision might be met with dismay and disappointment by some stakeholders or perceived as an endorsement of the UK’s approach by others, the technical reasons set out in the accompanying report should temper both impressions.

As a prosecuting office, our aim is to bring a measure of justice to the victims of atrocity crimes in strict conformity with our mandate, without fear or favour. That commitment and duty are always subject to the possibilities and limits set by the Court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, and a rigorous objective assessment of the applicable legal criteria.

Final report: Situation in Iraq/UK (December 2020)

The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecutions of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Since 2003, the Office has been conducting investigations in multiple situations within the ICC’s jurisdiction, namely in Uganda; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Darfur, Sudan; the Central African Republic (two distinct situations); Kenya; Libya; Côte d’Ivoire; Mali; Georgia, Burundi Bangladesh/Myanmar and Afghanistan (subject to a pending article 18 deferral request). The Office is also currently conducting preliminary examinations relating to the situations in Bolivia; Colombia; Guinea; the Philippines; Nigeria; Ukraine; and Venezuela (I and II), while the situation in Palestine is pending a judicial ruling.

TAC Conducts Nationwide Scrutiny of MDAs

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The Parliamentary oversight Committee on Transparency and Accountability ( TAC)  has conducted a four day grilling of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) with regards funding disbursed by the Road Maintenance Fund Administration (RMFA) to both Municipal and District Councils in the country to embark on developmental road projects within their localities.

TAC commenced its public hearing at Moyamba District Council on past Tuesday 8th December, 2020 were they discovered lots of discrepancies between the council and RMFA documentations especially on the computation of figures before the Committee.

The Chairman of TAC who doubles as Chief Whip of Parliament, Hon. Dixon Rogers expressed the determination of the committee to oversee and investigate all developmental projects relating to transparency and accountability in the country as embedded in the 1991 Constitution. “We will leave no stone unturned to ensure development reaches the people of this country” TAC Chairman avowed.

TAC continues its hearings on Wednesday with both Bonthe Municipal and District Councils at the Conference Hall of Bonthe District Council were similar issues were also unearthed as a result the committee resolved to engage both RMFA and these Councils on a slated date at the House of Parliament in due course.

On Thursday 10th December this year, TAC engages both Kenema City and District and also Kailahun district Councils respectively. Similar hearing was conducted at the City Conference Hall of Kenema City.

However, TAC observed that there are some poor correlations and coordinations between these Council officials especially the internal auditors, evaluation officers, financial officers and some chief administrators which have the propensity to hamper developments within these localities.

Gov’t Extends Tenure of SLCS DG

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The Government of Sierra Leone has extended Mr. Joseph Lamboi’s term in office as the Director General of the Sierra Leone Correctional Service by a year.

This decision was unanimously reached by members of the SLCS’ council which is chaired by His Excellency the Vice President- Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh.

The rationale for the decision, according to Mr. Lamboi, was that since his deputy (Mr. Dennis Herman) retired in June 2020, the said office had remained vacant.

“Council prevailed on me to keep steering the affairs of the department while my successor apparent will be attached to my office to learn from me. I did not wish for things to pan out this way; as a matter of fact, I had even packed my belongings in readiness to exit. Council has afforded me the opportunity of working for another year, on contract basis,” the DG explained to a muster parade of Corrections Officers.

Commenting on the matter of security, Mr. Lamboi said since the April 29 incident, government deemed it necessary to send some military and police personnel to the SLCS to help flesh out not just security related matters but also administrative issues too.

He encouraged all to cooperate with them whenever they required answers to emerging or past issues related to the department, adding “they had not come to take our job but to complement it”.

Stepping forward to address the parade, the Technical Support Team Lead seconded to the SLCS, Col. Ngaujah stressed the need for every officer to be vigilant.

“Our job depends on everyone’s cooperation. If we hear of any security lapse in any Correctional Centre, serious disciplinary measures will be taken against officers who are found wanting of any untoward behavior,” he harangued

ACC Boss Bags Meritorious Award

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The Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Francis Ben Kaifala Esq, has on Thursday 10th December, 2020, received a Meritorious Award from the Youth Empowerment and Development Association (YEDA) for his show of strong leadership and continuous demonstration of robust efforts in the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone.

Handing over the Award in his office at 3 Gloucester Street, Freetown, the Executive Director of YEDA, Mohamed Kamara said, his organisation is a youth led organization that is engaged in developmental issues and the promotion of accountability and good governance in Sierra Leone.

YEDA gives out Award to high-profile deserving citizens who have contributed positively to the transformation of the country, YEDA boss asserted.

YEDA have been following the works of the Anti-Corruption Commission over the years and have duly awarded Francis Ben Kaifala Esq. two times in a row for his diligence, dedication, determination and commitment to the fight against corruption, Mr Kamara added.

He catalogued some of the gains the Commission has made in two years. Ranging from creating a Special Anti-Corruption Division in the High Court so that corruption matters adjudged will be expeditious. In fact, there are five dedicated Judges who sit exclusively an on ACC matter, which makes corruption cases, are now heard faster and quicker.

Receiving the Award, Commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala Esq. thanked the Executive Director of YEDA for what he described as a motivational award to do more. “WE ARE FIRED UP” were his exact words upon receiving the award. He said shuttling from one award to another over the years, tells that the people of this country and the international community are appreciative of the work of the Commission so far. Commissioner Kaifala promised to do more base on the high level of trust and confidence reposed in him by the people of this country. He therefore dedicated the Award to the young people of Sierra Leone.

This Award has come at a time the Commission has just concluded a YOUTH CONFERENCE and a PANEL DISCUSSION with young people of this country on the topic, “LEVERAGING YOUTH CAPACITY AND INVOLVEMENT IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION”, marking this year’s commemoration of the International Anti- Corruption Commission Day.

President Bio Urges Intra-African Trade Relations

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 His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has addressed the media just outside the Presidential Palace in the capital, Libreville, and urged the continent to prioritize the African market and boost trade with itself.

The President who was on a 3-day official visit to the Central African state and one of the most prosperous countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, thanked His Excellency Ali Bongo Ondimba and his people for the warm welcome, adding that they’ve not had time to go around a lot but were impressed even though there was more to do.

Responding to a question as to the purpose of his visit, the President said: “We are all moving gradually towards development and we think that a few things have been done here. That’s why we came to look at what is happening and what we could learn from those”.

“Trade among countries in Africa is one thing that we have not been doing well with. So, yes, there is a necessity for us to deepen this relationship. There are a few things here that we can copy and adapt to work in Sierra Leone. This will not be the end of our cooperation,” he said.

He added that he was going to get his Minister of Trade to visit the country so that those visits could be translated into a mutually beneficial relationship between the two countries.

Acting Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr Abubakarr Karim, said that what they saw, during a tour of the Gabon Special Economic Zones, was an interesting model and that it would be useful for the two countries to collaborate, set up a synergy and understand how the Gabonese had done it.

It could be recalled that in March 2018, African countries signed a landmark trade agreement, the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, which commits countries to remove tariffs on 90 per cent of goods, progressively liberalise trade in services, and address a host of other non-tariff barrier.

 

 

Guma Launches Mambo Water Supply Project

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Ing. Francis Moijueh, representing the Minister of Water Resources, has on Tuesday 8th December, 2020 at the Hill Valley Academy Hall launched the Mambo Community Water Supply Project valued at Le 14.6 billion.

The Mambo Community Water Supply Project which is supported by the Government of Sierra Leone comprises the construction of a weir, treatment and storage facilities, pipe distribution network and installation of 20 water kiosks; of which 15 and 5 will be located in Mambo and Hamilton respectively.

Speaking at the launch, Ing. Moijueh admonished the contractor Brunnenbau Conrad (BBC) to be very transparent in its dealings with the community and ensure that grievance redress and stakeholder engagement mechanisms are put in place for the smooth execution of the project.

The Minister’s representative added that they will be strictly monitoring the work of the contractor and advised that Guma consider connections to households as one of the project deliverables.

Making a statement on behalf of the Ministry of Finance, Ing. Francis Lahai said the Medium-term National Development Plan 2019 – 2023 is founded on Government’s strong political commitment to deliver results that would improve the welfare of Sierra Leone’s citizens. “That is why in 2020, Government invested Le 23 billion and Le 150 billion in Guma and SALWACO respectively to improve on water supply across the country”.

The Headmen of the  Mambo and Hamilton Communities, Mohamed Samai and Morlai Conteh praised the Government for such a laudable development and pledged the full support of their community members for the project as they have been yearning for pipe borne water supply for a very long time.

In his statement, the Managing Director of Guma, Maada Kpenge apologized to the people of Mambo community on behalf of the company for lack of pipe borne water supply for nearly 60 years; “the main transmission pipes passes right through the Mambo community, but it is only now we are about to provide safe and clean pipe borne for its residents”.

Mr. Kpenge said, “His Excellency President Dr. Julius Maada Bio is very passionate about improving the lives of every Sierra Leonean; and so when we proposed this project, the Government was happy to support us fully”.

Director Peter Amara, a member of the Board of Guma said they are always ready to give strategic direction and support to the management of Guma to carry out the water sector policy of the New Direction Government; which targets 80% access to water supply for all Sierra Leoneans by 2023.

The construction phase of Mambo Community Water Supply Project is expected to last for six months and will provide access to safe and clean water supply for over 5000 residents in Mambo and Hamilton when completed.

 

LEGAL LINK CELEBRATES INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY AND LAUNCHES ITS SECOND ANNIVERSARY REPORT

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Christian Lawyers Centre herein after referred to as LEGAL LINK has successfully celebrated its 2nd Anniversary on 10th December 2020, International Human Rights Day, and has also launched its 2nd Annual Report in defense of the rights of religious communities and vulnerable groups in Sierra Leone.

It could be recalled that on the 10th of December 2018, LEGAL LINK was officially launched by Rashid Dumbuya Esq and a host of other lawyers, law students and human rights activists at the Christians in Action Church, Pademba road, Freetown.

It is also worthy to note that the 10th of December is usually referred to as International Human Rights Day. This day has been set aside by the United Nations to reflect and showcase how much successes have been garnered within its 194 member states in the push for compliance and respect for human rights.

 The 10th of December is also celebrated to remind states of the numerous challenges regarding adherence to their human rights obligations and commitments under International Human Rights Law. What a joy and privilege to have LEGAL LINK celebrate its second anniversary on this great day called International Human Rights Day.

Just two years on, the organization has become a household name in Sierra Leone due to its passion and quest in defending the rights of religious communities and vulnerable groups in the country.

In this regard, the organisation has continued to receive accolades and recognitions both locally and internationally for its revolutionary and impactful programmes.

During the formal celebration of its 2nd Anniversary and the International Human Rights Day event which was well attended by interns, lawyers, law students, civil society organizations and representatives from the religious communities and vulnerable groups, the Executive Director of LEGAL LINK, Rashid Dumbuya Esq used the opportunity to thank God for making LEGAL LINK to see its 2nd anniversary and to also celebrate it in grand style.

In launching the 2nd Annual Report, the Executive Director, highlighted the myriad of activities undertaken by LEGAL LINK within the period under review.

The successes achieved, challenges encountered and recommendations put forward by LEGAL LINK regarding this report, it is hoped that such will engender dynamism for legal, institutional and policy reforms in the country.

Rashid also explained to the audience about LEGAL LINK’s intervention to complement government’s effort in the area of respect for human rights.

A video documentary survey report of the impact of COVID-19 on the religious communities in Freetown was projected and displayed for the audience to see.

 Furthermore, the Executive  Director also mentioned to the audience about the research work LEGAL LINK is currently undertaking for the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria – South Africa and emphasized that such was a testament of how much LEGAL LINK is being appreciated at the International Level.

Several representatives from the religious communities, civil society organizations and vulnerable groups that witnessed the programme expressed their thanks and appreciations for the good work LEGAL LINK has been doing for them over the past two years especially in defending their rights and given their lives true meaning and significance.

They however appealed for LEGAL LINK to continue to build on these meaningful achievements in the coming years so that a culture of respect for human rights in Sierra Leone will be garnered and sustained.

The Executive Director assured the representatives of LEGAL LINK’s continued support in 2021 and in subsequent years to come.

Statements were also made by the interim Board Chairman, Pastor Paul Ken Bockarie, Founding member, Mr. Thomas Moore Conteh and other interns of LEGAL LINK.

They thanked all those that supported the organization over the year and further appealed to the donor community to keep supporting LEGAL LINK in 2021 so that it can do more to defend the rights of religious communities and vulnerable groups in Sierra Leone.

The programme ended up in a joyful party celebration in honour of LEGAL LINK’s Second Anniversary.

Thanks and appreciations to the Board of Directors, lawyers, interns, law students, pastors, human rights activists and all those who contributed to  LEGAL LINK’s success over the past two years.

Netherlands Issues Traveling Advisory for Air Travel

 The Government of Netherlands, through a note verbal from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has issued a travel advisory for passengers requiring negative COVID-19 PCR test results upon arrival at the Netherlands Airport, starting 15th December 2020.

According to the Note in question which was addressed to all diplomatic missions including Sierra Leone and International Organizations in the Netherlands: “If these travellers fail or refuse to display a negative Covid-19 test result upon boarding an aircraft or ship headed to the Netherlands and upon arrival in the Netherlands, they will be denied entry into the Netherlands or the aircraft or ship headed there.”

As per the advisory, travellers must also present a completed and signed Negative Test Declaration that is available at www.government.nl.

 

The completed and signed Negative Test Declaration and the negative PCR Result must be provided in hardcopy.

“The test conducted must be a molecular PCR-test for Sars-Cov-2/COVID19; it must be documented in English, German, French, Spanish or Dutch and should include the details of the institute or laboratory that conducted the test,” the Travel Advisory stated.

The advisory also cautions that the name on the test result must match the travellers’ passport details and must be conducted within a maximum of 72 hours before arrival in the Netherlands and must be done before departure from the country of origin, noting further that the test scope only applies to individuals aged 13 years and older travelling to the Netherlands from countries which are not included on the ‘EU’s List of Epidemiologically Safe Countries Amid COVID-19’.

In order to contain the spread of the CoVID-19, the Belgium Government had also issued a travelling advisory for all travelling to Belgium since the 1st August 2020, requesting that all persons returning to Belgium and all persons travelling through Belgium, especially those who are staying at least 48 hours must fill Passenger Locator Forms.

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