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‘Unanimous’ ICC gives go-ahead to probe Afghanistan alleged war crimes

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Prosecutors have been given the green light to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan – and beyond its borders – linked to Afghan, Taliban and US troops, the International Criminal Court said on Thursday. 

The decision, reached unanimously on appeal by judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, overturns an earlier decision vetoing an inquiry, on the grounds that it “would not be in the interests of justice”. 

“The Appeals Chamber found that the Prosecutor is authorised to investigate…the crimes alleged to have been committed on the territory of Afghanistan since 1 May 2003,” the ICC said in a statement, “as well as other alleged crimes that have a nexus to the armed conflict in Afghanistan and are sufficiently linked to the situation in Afghanistan and were committed on the territory of other States Parties.” 

Investigation appeal first made in 2017 

The probe will be led by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who made the request to to the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber in November 2017. 

At the time, her Office cited grave crimes “and the absence of relevant national proceedings against those who appear to be most responsible for the most serious crimes”. 

The ICC Prosecutor’s request covered alleged abuses committed in Afghanistan since 1 May 2003, as well as other alleged crimes since 1 July 2002, which were committed by States Parties to the Rome Statute – the 1998 international agreement that led to the formation of the court. 

Afghan, Taliban and US forces in spotlight 

Specifically, Ms. Bensouda will be seeking to investigate crimes against humanity and war crimes by the Taliban and their affiliated Haqqani Network; war crimes by the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and in particular, members of the National Directorate for Security (NDS) and the Afghan National Police (ANP). 

The ICC Prosecutor is also set to probe alleged war crimes by U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan and by members of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in “secret detention facilities” in Afghanistan “and on the territory of other States Parties to the Rome Statute, principally in the period of 2003-2004”. 

In an earlier statement, Ms. Bensouda’s Office said that “that there are no substantial reasons to believe that the opening of an investigation would not serve the interests of justice, taking into account the gravity of the crimes and the interests of victims”. 

The Prosecutor maintained that her Office’s sole objective was to investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity “independently, impartially and objectively”. 

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has issued a statement calling the court’s decision “a truly breathtaking action by an unaccountable political institution, masquerading as a legal body”, adding that it “is all the more reckless” as it came just days after the signing of a “historic peace deal” between Washington and the Taliban.

“This is yet another reminder of what happens when multilateral bodies lack oversight and responsible leadership, and become instead a vehicle for political vendettas.  The ICC has today stumbled into a sorry affirmation of every denunciation made by its harshest critics over the past three decades”, he stated.

Court can issue summons to ‘no matter who’ 

For the purposes of its investigation, the ICC Prosecutor can request that the court’s judges issue summons to appear or arrest warrants “no matter who the perpetrator”, for alleged atrocity crimes committed in connection with the Situation in Afghanistan, her Office said. 

In addition to Afghanistan, the ICC Prosecutor’s Office has been conducting investigations in Burundi, Uganda; the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, Sudan; the Central African Republic, Kenya, Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Georgia.  

Preliminary examinations have also begun into the registered vessels of Comoros, Greece and Cambodia; as well as into Colombia, Gabon, Guinea, Iraq/UK, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Nigeria and Ukraine. 

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Development

New Financing to Help Indonesia Achieve a Deeper and More Resilient Financial Sector

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The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved a loan of US$400 million to support reforms that will help the Government of Indonesia increase the depth, improve the efficiency, and strengthen the resilience of the financial sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused recession in Indonesia, with potentially long-lasting financial, fiscal, and social implications. While the banking system is well-capitalized and profitability is high, the lack of depth in the Indonesian financial markets increases the country’s vulnerability to external shocks. The new financing is designed to help the country address financial sector vulnerabilities heightened by the pandemic. It does so through support to measures such as extending financial services to previously underserved groups, reducing the costs of such services for individuals and businesses alike, and strengthening the capacity of the financial sector to withstand financial and non-financial shocks.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has made structural reforms to address financial sector vulnerabilities urgent. The Government of Indonesia is committed to strengthening the financial sector given its critical role in sustaining Indonesia’s growth and in reducing poverty, especially during the COVID-19 recovery phase. “ said Minister of Finance of the Republic of Indonesia, Sri Mulyani Indrawati.

The new development policy loan will support Indonesia’s financial sector reforms through three key approaches. First, it aims to increase the depth of the financial sector by expanding the  access to financial services – including by youth and women – broadening the range of financial products, and incentivizing long-term savings. These efforts would reduce Indonesia’s vulnerability to foreign portfolio outflows.

Second, it aims to improve the efficiency and lower the cost of the financial sector by strengthening the insolvency and creditor rights framework, protect consumers and personal data, and make payment systems more efficient and faster by utilizing digital technology. The latter will help large-scale social assistance payments to vulnerable people during the crisis.

Third, it aims to boost the capacity of the financial sector to withstand shocks by strengthening the resolution framework to avoid financial activities disruptions in the event of a bank failure, advancing the effectiveness of financial sector oversight and implementing sustainable finance practices.

“This financing complements the government’s efforts to cushion the financial sector and the overall economy from the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. By making financial services more transparent, reliable and technology-oriented, savings can be channeled into the most productive investments  in a less costly, faster and safer way, thus opening opportunities for people to invest in their future and to protect themselves from unexpected shocks,” said Satu Kahkonen, World Bank Country Director for Indonesia and Timor-Leste.

The World Bank’s support to financial sector reforms in Indonesia is an important component of the World Bank Group’s Country Partnership Framework for Indonesia, whose engagement area on strengthening economic resilience and competitiveness contains a specific objective focused on increasing the depth, improving the efficiency and strengthening the resilience of the financial sector. The new financing is also based on the World Bank Group’s GRID (green, resilient, inclusive development) principles.

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Human Rights

2021 Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy

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Each year, the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy assembles hundreds of courageous dissidents and human rights activists, diplomats, journalists and student leaders to shine a spotlight on urgent human rights issues.

The Geneva Summit is sponsored by 25 human rights NGOs from around the world. The Geneva Summit has been featured in media around the globe, including CNN, Agence France Presse, AP, The Australian, Radio Free Europe and ANSA.

This year, the 13th  Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy was held on June 7 and 8. The event was free to all the people who made online registration. This year the summit hosted different voices from different parts of the world.

In this year’s summit, the leading Turkish journalist Can Dündar who was arrested, jailed and forced into exile for his reporting on Erdogan’s government was one of the speakers addressing Human Rights and Democracy on the Fragility of Freedom and Democracy panel.

For the full text of the Fragility of Freedom and Democracy panel, click here.

The list of the other speakers is as follows:

Waad Al-Kateab, Syrian refugee and award-winning documentary filmmaker on the conflict in Syria

Rayhan Asat, Uyghur activist, sister of Ekpar Asat who was abducted by Chinese authorities

Nathan Law, Former member of Hong Kong Legislative Council who fled arrest & sudden leader of 2014 Umbrella Movement

András Simonyi, Academic & former Hungarian Ambassador to the U.S.

Prof. Irwin Cotler, Chair of Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, former Minister of Justice & Attorney General of Canada.

Gulalai Ismail, Pakistani women’s rights activist, former political prisoner who escaped the country

Tania Bruguera, Cuban political performance artist repeatedly arrested for her work

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Belarusian opposition presidential candidate forced to flee after rigged elections

Jihyun Park, Escapee and survivor of a North Korean forced labor camp

Daria Navalnaya, Daughter of poisoned and jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, Australian-British academic just freed after two years in Iranian prison as a victim of hostage diplomacy

Evan Mawarire, Zimbabwean protest leader, arrested six times and tortured for his human rights work

Yang Jianli, Chinese dissident, former political prisoner, survivor of Tiananmen Square and President of Initiatives for China

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Leading dissident against Putin regime, Chairman of Boris Nemtsov Foundation, survivor of two poisoning attempts

For links to other speakers’ quotes, videos, livestream, and more, click here.

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Finance

Decentralized Finance heats up: new approaches needed for industry transformation

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Decentralized finance (DeFi) aims to transform traditional forms of finance by reconstructing and reimagining services. The World Economic Forum today released the Decentralized Finance (DeFi) Policy-Maker Toolkit, providing policy-makers and regulators with guidance for technologies that are global and transforming rapidly.

The toolkit is a collaboration with the Blockchain and Digital Asset Project at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. It draws on contributions from an international expert group of academics, legal practitioners, DeFi entrepreneurs, technologists, global policy-makers and regulators, and is the second report in the series, after DeFi Beyond the Hype.

DeFi has been evolving since the launch of the Ethereum blockchain in 2015 and is a category of financial services based on blockchain’s distributed ledger technology. It does not rely on central institutions, and interest has risen sharply from both private and public sectors.

The report notes that, in the past year, the value of digital assets locked in DeFi smart contracts grew by a factor of 18, from $670 million to $13 billion. The number of associated user wallets grew by a factor of 11, from 100,000 to 1.2 million, and the number of DeFi-related applications grew from eight to more than 200.

The first-of-its-kind toolkit provides a foundation for understanding the major factors that should drive policy-making decisions. It provides an overview of DeFi, explores and illustrates benefits and risks with case studies, and maps out legal and regulatory responses.

Representatives from governments around the world contributed to the creation of the toolkit, including those developing Europe’s Markets in Crypto-assets (MiCA) framework and major U.S. financial regulators. The government of Colombia is among those planning to use the toolkit in their policy-making and regulations.

“We are in a critical time for DeFi. Following its rapid growth, and the price activity in crypto more generally, governments are closely watching cryptocurrencies and decentralized applications,” said Sheila Warren, Deputy Head of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network; Executive Committee, World Economic Forum. “This toolkit is a critical first step in helping policy-makers and regulators navigate this quickly evolving space. By outlining the potential risks, while highlighting the opportunities for innovation, we hope it will be a valuable resource in informing balanced approaches to policies and regulations.”

“DeFi has transformative potential for financial services worldwide but also creates an array of serious concerns,” said Kevin Werbach, Director of the Blockchain and Digital Asset Project at Wharton. “Policy-makers and regulators need frameworks to address these issues responsibly. The toolkit provides that roadmap.”

“DeFi presents a generational expansion of financial opportunity (and always accompanying risk). The most important first step before any regulatory or policy undertaking is to level-set on the evolving landscape,” said Michael Mosier, Acting Director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in the United States. “This report helpfully provides us with a thoughtful, clear and comprehensive cartography of DeFi so that we can make the most of truly innovative opportunities for financial expansion and novel risk mitigation.”

“We have been following the evolution of Crypto and DeFi and decided to take an active role in developing our policies in this field due to the opportunities it could unleash for our people,” said Jehudi Castro Sierra, Digital Transformation Advisor, Presidency of Colombia. “We were pleased to contribute to the toolkit and we are looking forward to using it to inform approaches to this space that are balanced, risk-aware, and forward looking. As the first country in the region to use the Policy-Maker Toolkit, we aim to be the leader in Latin America for DeFi policies and regulation.”

Authors call for technologically neutral approaches that can balance objectives of regulatory regimes and innovation and market development with policies that are fair, efficient and enforceable. Effective regulations should involve a combination of existing, retrofitted, new and bespoke regulations.

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