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Automatic Criminal Liability for Unlawful Confinement (Imprisonment) as a War Crime? A Potential Consequence of Denying Non-State Armed Groups the Power to Detain in NIACs

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International Humanitarian Law and Non-State Actors

Abstract

The question of whether international humanitarian law (IHL) provides for the power of detention to Parties in a non-international armed conflict (NIAC) has been, of late, highly contentious. Whilst many have opined on this issue, most have reflected upon it purely from within the prism of IHL. This chapter takes a different approach. After identifying the interwoven nature of IHL and war crimes, it considers the issue from the perspective of international criminal law (ICL). It submits that if IHL does not provide for a power of detention in NIACs, then non-State armed groups (NSAGs) that engage in such conduct will most likely commit the war crime of unlawful confinement (imprisonment) as a violation of the laws and customs of war and simultaneously violate domestic criminal law. This has profound consequences. One of the incentives that NSAGs have to follow IHL is the possibility that, if they abide by its principles, they will not stand liable for war crimes. Further, IHL actively encourages the provision of amnesties to members of NSAGs at the end of the NIAC, but this can only extend to domestic crimes and not to war crimes. It is submitted that a situation whereby ICL liability is but a foregone conclusion for the mere act of detention – where no reprieve in the form of an amnesty is available – has a potentially negative effect on the incentive for NSAGs to abide by IHL standards when it comes to how detention is carried out. This should be kept in mind when considering the question of whether IHL provides for an authority to detain in NIACs.

LL.M (Hons) (Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights). Associate Legal Officer, Office of the Prosecutor, International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, Arusha, Tanzania; Director, The Peace and Justice Initiative (www.peaceandjusticeinitiative.org); Adjunct Fellow, School of Law, Western Sydney University. The views expressed herein are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals or the United Nations in general.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    See UK – England and Wales High Court of Justice, Serdar Mohammed v. Ministry of Defence; Qasim and Others v. Secretary of State for Defence, 2 May 2014, EWHC 1369 (QB), paras 228–268.

  2. 2.

    See UK – England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division), Serdar Mohammed and Others v. Secretary of State for Defence; Rahmatullah and Others v. Ministry of Defence and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 30 July 2015, EWCA Civ 843, paras 164–253.

  3. 3.

    See UK Supreme Court, Al-Waheed v. Ministry of Defence; Serdar Mohammed v. Ministry of Defence, 17 January 2017, UKSC 2, paras 243–276 (per Lord Reed (dissenting) (Lord Kerr agreeing)); see also paras 8–17 (per Lord Sumption (but finding it unnecessary to reach a definitive view on this issue) (Lady Hale agreeing); 147–148 (per Lord Mance (also finding it unnecessary to decide the issue)).

  4. 4.

    See, among others, Goodman 2009; Casalin 2011; van Amstel 2012; Debuf 2013; ICRC 2014; Mačák 2015; Heffes 2015; Rona 2015; Aughey and Sari 2015; Goodman 2015; Hill-Cawthorne 2016; Murray 2017; Clapham 2017.

  5. 5.

    On this, see Mégret, Chap. 7 in this volume, discussing whether IHL and international human rights law provide a legal basis for NSAGs’ detentions.

  6. 6.

    One academic that has explored this ICL angle is Professor Andrew Clapham (see Clapham 2017), although this chapter will show that his analysis is incomplete.

  7. 7.

    ICTY, Prosecutor v. Tadić, Decision on the Defence Motion for Interlocutory Appeal on Jurisdiction, 2 October 1995, IT-94-1-AR72 (Tadić), para 70; ICTY, Prosecutor v. Boškoski and Tarčulovski, Appeal Judgement, 19 May 2010, IT-04-82-A (Boškoski and Tarčulovski 2010), para 21.

  8. 8.

    ICTY, Prosecutor v. Haradinaj et al., Trial Judgement, 3 April 2008, IT-04-84-T (Haradinaj et al.), para 49. See also ICTY, Prosecutor v. Tadić, Trial Judgment, 7 May 1997, IT-94-1-T, para 562; ICTY, Prosecutor v. Kordić and Čerkez, Appeal Judgment, 17 December 2004, IT-95-14 (Kordić and Čerkez), para 341; Boškoski and Tarčulovski 2010, above n. 7, paras 21–24.

  9. 9.

    ICTY, Prosecutor v. Orić, Trial Judgment, 30 June 2006, IT-03-68-T (Orić), para 254. See also ICTY, Prosecutor v. Limaj et al., Trial Judgment, 30 November 2005, IT-03-66-T (Limaj et al.), para 89; Haradinaj et al., above n. 8, paras 50–60.

  10. 10.

    ICTY, Prosecutor v. Kunarac et al., Appeal Judgement, 12 June 2002, IT-96-23 & IT- 96-23/1-A (Kunarac et al.), para 58.

  11. 11.

    Kunarac et al., above n. 10, para 58. See also Tadić, above n. 7, para 70; ICTY, Prosecutor v. Stakić, Appeal Judgment, 22 March 2006, IT-97-24-A, para 342.

  12. 12.

    ICTY, Prosecutor v. Naletilić and Martinović, Appeal Judgment, 3 May 2006, IT-98-34-A (Naletilić and Martinović), para 119. See also ICTY, Prosecutor v. Limaj et al., Appeal Judgment, 27 September 2007, IT-03-66-A, para 21.

  13. 13.

    Kordić and Čerkez, above n. 8, para 311; Naletilić and Martinović, above n. 12, para 119.

  14. 14.

    See Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, opened for signature 17 July 1998, 2187 UNTS 3, entered into force 1 July 2002 (ICC Statute), Article 8(2)(a)(vii).

  15. 15.

    See Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, 25 May 1993 (ICTY Statute), Article 2(g) (‘unlawful confinement of a civilian’); Law on the Establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, 27 October 2004 (ECCC Law), Article 6 (‘unlawful confinement of a civilian’); Kosovo Law on Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office, 3 August 2015 (KSC Law) Article 14(1)(a)(vii) (‘unlawful confinement’); Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, opened for signature 27 June 2014, not yet entered into force (Malabo Protocol), Article 28D(a)(vii) (‘unlawful confinement’); Statute of the Extraordinary African Chambers, 22 August 2012 (EAC Statute), Article 7(1)(f) (‘unlawful confinement’).

  16. 16.

    See ICTY Statute, above n. 15, Article 3; KSC Law, above n. 15, Article 14(1)(d) (violations of the laws and customs of war in NIACs); Malabo Protocol, above n. 15, Article 28D(e) (violations of the laws and customs of war in NIACs).

  17. 17.

    See KSC Law, above n. 15, Article 14(1)(c); Malabo Protocol, above n. 15, Article 28D(c).

  18. 18.

    See Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, 8 November 1994 (ICTR Statute), Article 4; Statute of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, 16 January 2012 (SCSL Statute), Article 3; EAC Statute, above n. 15, Article 7(2).

  19. 19.

    See SCSL Statute, above n. 18, Article 4.

  20. 20.

    See ICTY, Prosecutor v. Strugar, Trial Judgment, 31 January 2005, IT-01-42-T (Strugar), para 219; ICTY, Prosecutor v. Halilović, Trial Judgment, 16 November 2005, IT-01-48-T, paras 30–31; ICTY, Prosecutor v. Hadžihasanović and Kubura, Trial Judgment, 15 March 2006 (Hadžihasanović and Kubura), IT-01-47-T, para 29; Orić, above n. 9, para 261; ICTY, Prosecutor v. Martić, Trial Judgment, 12 June 2007, IT-95-11-T (Martić), paras 44–45; ICTY, Prosecutor v. Mrkšić et al., Trial Judgment, 27 September 2007, IT-95-13/1-T (Mrkšić et al.), paras 425–426; ICTY, Prosecutor v. Delić, Trial Judgment, 15 September 2008, IT-04-83-T (Delić), para 43; ICTY, Prosecutor v. Đorđević, Trial Judgment, 23 February 2011, IT-05-87/1-T (Đorđević), para 1529; ICTY, Prosecutor v. Gotovina et al., Trial Judgment, 15 April 2011, IT-06-90-T (Gotovina et al.), para 1671; ICTY, Prosecutor v. Stanišić and Simatović, Trial Judgment, 30 May 2013, IT-03-69-T, para 951.

  21. 21.

    See Kunarac et al., above n. 10, paras 194–195; Haradinaj et al., above n. 8, para 35.

  22. 22.

    See Strugar, above n. 20, paras 220–222; ICTY, Prosecutor v. Galić, Trial Judgment, 5 December 2003, IT-98-29-T (Galić), paras 13–32; Martić, above n. 20, paras 44–45.

  23. 23.

    See Strugar, above n. 20, para 219; Hadžihasanović and Kubura, above n. 20, para 29; Orić, above n. 9, para 261; Martić, above n. 20, paras 44–45; Mrkšić et al., above n. 20, paras 425–426; Delić, above n. 20, para 43; Gotovina et al., above n. 20, para 1671.

  24. 24.

    See Strugar, above n. 20, paras 223–226.

  25. 25.

    See Galić, above n. 22, paras 94–138. See also ICTY, Prosecutor v. Galić, Appeal Judgment, 30 November 2006, IT-98-29-A, paras 87–98 (finding that the prohibition of terror against the civilian population was prohibited and criminalized under customary international law); ICTY, Prosecutor v. D. Milošević, Trial Judgment, 12 December 2007, IT-98-29/1-T, para 870.

  26. 26.

    Tadić, above n. 7, para 94.

  27. 27.

    Henckaerts and Doswald-Beck 2009, p 344 (emphasis added). For the practice underlying this rule, see Henckaerts and Doswald-Beck 2005, pp 2328–2344, paras 2516–2662.

  28. 28.

    Henckaerts and Doswald-Beck 2009, p 344.

  29. 29.

    Common Article 3(1) of the Geneva Conventions provides that:

    Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

    The ICRC has opined that ‘[h]umane treatment of persons protected by common Article 3 is not merely a recommendation or a moral appeal … it is an obligation of the Parties to the conflict under international law’. ICRC 2016, para 552; ICRC 2017, para 574.

  30. 30.

    Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts, opened for signature 8 June 1977, 1125 UNTS 609, entered into force 7 December 1978 (AP II), Article 4(1) provides that:

    All persons who do not take a direct part or who have ceased to take part in hostilities, whether or not their liberty has been restricted, are entitled to respect for their person, honour and convictions and religious practices. They shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction. It is prohibited to order that there shall be no survivors.

  31. 31.

    See ICC Statute, above n. 14, Article 8(2)(a)(vii); ICTY Statute, above n. 15, Article 2(g); ECCC Law, above n. 15, Article 6; KSC Law, above n. 15, Article 14(1)(a)(vii); Malabo Protocol, above n. 15, Article 28D(a)(vii); EAC Statute, above n. 15, Article 7(1)(f).

  32. 32.

    Tadić, above n. 7, para 119 (in the context of weapons).

  33. 33.

    Tadić, above n. 7, para 94. See also ICTY, Prosecutor v. Delalić et al., Appeal Judgment, 20 February 2001, IT-96-21-A (Delalić et al.), paras 153–174; Limaj et al., above n. 9, para 176; Mrkšić et al., above n. 20, para 426; Haradinaj et al., above n. 8, para 34; ICTY, Prosecutor v. Boškoski and Tarčulovski, Trial Judgment, 10 July 2008, IT-04-82-T (Boškoski and Tarčulovski 2008), para 299; Đorđević, above n. 20, para 1529.

  34. 34.

    Kunarac et al., above n. 10, para 68. See also Limaj et al., above n. 9, para 176; Martić, above n. 20, para 45; Mrkšić et al., above n. 20, para 426; Boškoski and Tarčulovski 2008, above n. 33, para 299; Delić, above n. 20, para 43; ICTY, Prosecutor v. Lukić and Lukić, Trial Judgment, 20 July 2009, IT-98-32/1-T, para 869; ICTY, Prosecutor v. Popović et al., Trial Judgment, 10 June 2010, IT-05-88-T, para 746; Đorđević, above n. 20, para 1529; ICTY, Prosecutor v. Perišić, Trial Judgment, 6 September 2011, IT-04-81-T, para 76; ICTY, Prosecutor v. Tolimir, Trial Judgment, 12 December 2012, IT-05-88/2-T, para 684.

  35. 35.

    Henckaerts and Doswald-Beck 2009, p 347.

  36. 36.

    See ICRC n.d. Customary IHL Database, Practice Relating to Rule 99: Deprivation of Liberty.

  37. 37.

    See Boas et al. 2008, p 287 (‘[t]he underlying offence for unlawful confinement … is punishable as a grave breach under Article 2 of the ICTY Statute and a violation of the laws or customs of war under the residual jurisdiction of Article 3 of that Statute); and p 409 (where the authors outline the elements of unlawful confinement as a violation of the laws or customs of war).

  38. 38.

    Ibid., p 287.

  39. 39.

    Ibid., p 390.

  40. 40.

    See ICC, Prosecutor v. Harun and Kushayb, Decision on the Prosecution Application under Article 58(7) of the Statute, 27 April 2007, ICC-02/05-01/07-1-Corr, paras 74–75, disposition; ICC, Prosecutor v. Hussein, Public Redacted Version of ‘Decision on the Prosecutor’s Application under Article 58 Relating to Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein’, 1 March 2012, ICC-02/05-01/12-1-Red, para 13(vii), disposition; ICC, Prosecutor v. Khaled, Warrant of Arrest for Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled, 18 April 2013, ICC-01/11-01-13-1, para 8, disposition.

  41. 41.

    See ICC, Prosecutor v. Yekatom, Public Redacted Version of ‘Warrant of Arrest for Alfred Yekatom’ ICC-01/14-01/18-1-US-Exp 11 November 2018, 17 November 2018, ICC-01/14-01/18-1-Red, paras 10, 18(c), disposition; ICC, Prosecutor v. Ngaïssona, Public Redacted Version of ‘Warrant of Arrest for Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona’, 13 December 2018, ICC-01/14-02/18-2-Red, paras 10, 16(c) (Bangui Area), 16(b) (Bossangoa), 16(c) (Yakolé), 16(b) (Bossemptélé), 16(b) (Boda), 16(b) (Carnot), 16(b) (Berberati), disposition.

  42. 42.

    ICC, Situation in the Republic of Burundi, Public Redacted Version of ‘Decision Pursuant to Article 15 of the Rome Statute on the Authorization of an Investigation into the Situation in the Republic of Burundi’, 9 November 2017, ICC-01/17-X-9-US-Exp, para 68.

  43. 43.

    Ibid., para 68 (emphasis added).

  44. 44.

    Ibid., para 89.

  45. 45.

    See ICTY Statute, above n. 15, Article 5(e) (‘imprisonment’); ICTR Statute, above n. 18, Article 3(e) (‘imprisonment’); ECCC Law, above n. 15, Article 5 (‘imprisonment’).

  46. 46.

    Other international/regional criminal tribunals and courts also include this crime in their respective founding documents but did not, or have yet to, prosecute individuals for it: see SCSL Statute, above n. 18, Article 2(e); KSC Law, above n. 15, Article 13(e); Malabo Protocol, above n. 15, Article 28C(1)(e).

  47. 47.

    ICTY, Prosecutor v. Kordić and Čerkez, Trial Judgment, 26 February 2001, IT-95-14/2-T, paras 302–303 (emphasis added).

  48. 48.

    ICTY, Prosecutor v. Krnojelac, Trial Judgment, IT-97-25-T, 15 March 2002, para 111.

  49. 49.

    Ibid., paras 112–114 (emphasis added). The legal elements of imprisonment as a crime against humanity were not raised on appeal in this case.

  50. 50.

    Ibid., para 115 (emphasis added). It is also worth noting that in a footnote to this paragraph the Trial Chamber stated that arbitrary imprisonment ‘may further result from an otherwise justified deprivation of physical liberty if the deprivation is being administered under serious disregard of fundamental procedural rights of the person deprived of his or her liberty as provided for under international law.’

  51. 51.

    Kordić and Čerkez, above n. 8, paras 115–116.

  52. 52.

    Martić, above n. 20, para 87 (the Prosecution dropped its imprisonment-related arguments on appeal: ICTY, Prosecutor v. Martić, Prosecution’s Notice of Partial Withdrawal of Parts III and IV of Prosecution’s Notice of Appeal, 25 September 2007, IT-95-11-A).

  53. 53.

    ICTR, Prosecutor v. Ntagerura et al., Trial Judgment, 25 February 2004, ICTR-99-46-T, para 702.

  54. 54.

    Ibid.

  55. 55.

    Ibid.

  56. 56.

    ECCC, Co-Prosecutors v. Kaing et al., Trial Judgment, 26 July 2010, 001/18-07-2007/ECCC/TC-E188, paras 347–348.

  57. 57.

    Ibid., para 349, fn 637. The Trial Chamber’s definition of imprisonment as a crime against humanity was not put to the Supreme Court Chamber on appeal and thus it ‘refrain[ed] … from reviewing whether or not the[y] … [we]re correct as a matter of law’: ECCC, Co-Prosecutors v. Kaing et al., Appeal Judgment, 3 February 2012, 001/18-07-2007-ECCC/SC-F28, fn 733.

  58. 58.

    Delalić et al., above n. 33, para 342.

  59. 59.

    ICRC 2016, para 717; ICRC 2017, para 739.

  60. 60.

    Even the detention of civilians by a NSAG during a NIAC for reasons that are, on their face, unrelated to the NIAC (e.g. detention pursuant to a ‘judicial’ system administered by an advanced NSAG in areas under their control) could perhaps be viewed as sufficiently linked to the NIAC. After all, here too the detention was permitted or facilitated by the breakdown of State authority which resulted directly from the existence of the NIAC.

  61. 61.

    This would not, however, exclude altogether the authority coming from another valid international law source. For instance, such a source could be a Chapter VII resolution of the UN Security Council. But the idea that the UN Security Council would confer such an authority on a NSAG via this means is exceedingly unlikely.

  62. 62.

    It should be noted that due process in this context concerns how the power to detain is exercised and not whether detention is possible in the first place.

  63. 63.

    One way to perhaps get out of this conundrum would be in instances where advanced NSAGs have their own ‘legislation’ and operate a ‘legal’ system to administer them in areas under their control. However, even if detention were to be carried out by a NSAG pursuant to such a regime it would be a stretch to say that these constitute a valid ‘legal’ basis for detention. The legality of such detention certainly cannot be sourced from any recognizable source of law, either international or domestic. In any event, NSAGs with this level of sophistication are in the minority.

  64. 64.

    IACtHR, Case of the Massacres of El Mozote and Nearby Places v. El Salvador, Judgment: Merits, Reparations and Costs, 25 October 2012, Series C – No. 252, para 286 (internal footnotes omitted).

  65. 65.

    Henckaerts and Doswald-Beck 2009, pp 611–612. For the practice underlying this rule, see Henckaerts and Doswald-Beck 2005, pp 4017–4044, paras 651–762. For further practice since 2005 – when the ICRC study was first published, see ICRC n.d. Customary IHL Database, Practice Relating to Rule 159: Amnesty.

  66. 66.

    See ICRC 2016, para 717; ICRC 2017, para 739.

  67. 67.

    ICRC 2016, para 719; ICRC 2017, para 741.

  68. 68.

    Sivakumaran 2012, p 293.

  69. 69.

    See AP II, above n. 30, Article 5(2)(a)–(e); Sivakumaran 2012, pp 295–296.

  70. 70.

    Common Article 3(1)(d) of the Geneva Conventions prohibits:

    the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

  71. 71.

    AP II, above n. 30, Article 6(2) provides that:

    No sentence shall be passed and no penalty shall be executed on a person found guilty of an offence except pursuant to a conviction pronounced by a court offering the essential guarantees of independence and impartiality.

  72. 72.

    To be fair, the proper treatment of detained persons by NSAGs in a NIAC would preclude additional ICL charges (such as, for example, torture, inhumane treatment, etc.) but the unlawful – and in this case international criminal – nature of the detention would remain unaffected.

  73. 73.

    Casalin 2011, p 750.

  74. 74.

    See ICJ, Dispute Regarding Navigational and Related Rights (Costa Rica v Nicaragua), Judgment, 13 July 2009, ICJ Reports 2009, p 246, paras 77–79 (where the ICJ held that although Article VI of the Treaty of Limits (Cañas-Jerez Treaty) (1858) between Costa Rica and Nicaragua only guaranteed a right of free navigation for Costa Rica on the San Juan River for the purposes of commerce, a right of free navigation for non-commercial purposes for the local population could nonetheless ‘be inferred from the provisions of the Treaty as a whole’ – despite the fact that the treaty did not contain any express provision to that effect).

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Ventura, M.J. (2020). Automatic Criminal Liability for Unlawful Confinement (Imprisonment) as a War Crime? A Potential Consequence of Denying Non-State Armed Groups the Power to Detain in NIACs. In: Heffes, E., Kotlik, M., Ventura, M. (eds) International Humanitarian Law and Non-State Actors. T.M.C. Asser Press, The Hague. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-6265-339-9_6

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