Groningen Journal of International Law

International Law Under Construction


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Can top Italian officials be prosecuted and tried by the ICC for complicity in the crimes committed against migrants in Libya?

Andrea Preziosi | AMP711@student.bham.ac.uk

Background

The cooperation between Italy and Libya with the objective of curbing migratory pressure on Italian shores and EU external borders has attracted a great deal of criticism in light of the widespread pattern of human rights violations against migrants taking place on the war-torn territory of the African state. It was inaugurated in the early 2000s and strengthened by way of the 2017 Memorandum of Understanding. The former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned the assistance provided by Italy (backed by the EU) to the Libyan Cost Guards to intercept migrants at sea and prevent them from leaving the country, where they are confronted with “unimaginable horrors”, including torture, rape and killing. The Italian strategy has sought to involve not only internationally-recognised actors, but also local tribes that control Libyan territorial borders and, reportedly, armed groups implicated in the trafficking of migrants. Despite rising criticism, the newly elected Italian government has adopted an even more restrictive policy to tackle migration, as demonstrated by the frequent episodes of boats carrying hundreds of migrants coming from Libya being prevented entry to Italian ports.

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Justice for Syria in Swedish and German Courts: Possibilities and Challenges

By Maria Elena Vignoli |vignolm@hrw.org

For the past six and a half years, the world has witnessed atrocities committed in Syria in a climate of impunity by all parties to the conflict. The route to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the key international forum for accountability, is currently blocked. In 2014, Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have given the ICC prosecutor a mandate to investigate and prosecute serious crimes committed in Syria, and there are no indications that they would vote differently today. At the same time, with the conflict still raging, the option of bringing proceedings before Syrian courts is not viable.

In this bleak landscape for accountability, some small steps toward justice are under way in Europe. Several countries are investigating serious crimes committed in Syria since 2011. These investigations are made possible by the international law principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows authorities to pursue certain crimes because of their gravity, regardless of where they were committed, or the nationality of either the victim or the suspect. In addition, the large number of Syrians who have come to Europe, mainly as refugees, since 2015 means that victims, witnesses, material evidence and even some suspects are now within the reach of the European authorities.

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