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The International Criminal Court’s lead prosecutor has said he intends to investigate and prosecute cybercrimes that violate international law.
In a recent article published in Foreign Policy Analytics, the ICC’s chief Prosecutor, Karim Khan, said that international criminal justice “can and must adapt” to states and other actors who, he says, are increasingly resorting to cyberattacks.
“Cyber warfare does not play out in the abstract. Rather, it can have a profound impact on people’s lives,” he wrote.
At a recent side event during the United Nations General Assembly, Kahn added that he hopes to put out a policy paper on cybercrimes in 2024.
It comes at a time when the ICC itself has been the target of cyberattacks, with the international court saying earlier this month it had experienced a “cybersecurity incident”. The Dutch National broadcaster, NOS, reported that a hacker had gained access to a large number of sensitive documents. The ICC has not confirmed this.
This week we sit down with Lindsay Freeman, Director of Technology, Law & Policy at UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center to talk about cyberthreats. Specifically Russian hacking activities that could constitute a violation of international law.
Lindsay and colleagues have submitted two briefs, called Article 15 submissions, to the Office of the Prosecutor at the ICC. They highlight five incidents of Russian cyberattacks against Ukraine, which she believes could be considered war crimes under the Rome Statute.
For recommendations this week Lindsay highlighted the arrest warrant of Libyan commander Mahmoud Al-Werfalli. A case where social media content became key evidence in the case and led to the drafting of the Berkeley Protocol on Digital Open Source Investigations.
And keeping with the themes of cybersecurity and hacking, Lindsay also recommends Scott Shapiro’s book, Fancy Bear Goes Phishing, as well as the BBC podcast on alleged North Korea activities: The Lazarus Heist.
Our short, newsy justice updates
This month Sweden is putting two oil executives on trial, charged with complicity in war crimes committed in what is now South Sudan, between 1999 and 2003.
On Tuesday 5th September, the case against Ludin Oil’s former Chief Executive Ian Lundin and its former vice president, Alex Schneiter, finally begins.
It’s alleged that between 1999 and 2003, the Lundin Oil company paid the Sudanese army and allied militia forces to secure oil operations in southern Sudan. Swedish prosecutors say that once the company found oil in an area known as “Block 5A” in 1999, these military and militia groups led numerous violent operations to take control of the area.
These “systematic” and “indiscriminate attacks”, the prosecutors say included aerial bombardments from transport planes, shooting civilians from helicopter gunships, abducting and plundering civilians and burning entire villages and their crops so that people did not have anything to live of. A period grimly referred to as the ‘oil wars’.
Both men deny the charges.
It has been over ten years since the start of criminal investigations into Lundin Oil and two years since the two executives were formally charged with aiding and abetting war crimes. Back then we did a podcast on the indictments. You can check it out here.
During that episode, we spoke with Egbert Wesselink of the Dutch non-profit organisation PAX. The organisation released a detailed report called Unpaid Debt in 2010 of what had happened and how Lundin executives could be prosecuted under Swedish law.
It’s unusual for corporations and the individuals within them to face consequences for human rights violations. As such, many are hailing this as a rare case of corporate accountability, with comparisons being made to the Nuremberg trials after World War II.
In this episode we speak to Mark Klamberg, Professor of Public International Law at Stockholm University and Tara Van Ho, Senior Lecturer at the University of Essex, about what we can expect from this trial and the broader implications it has for corporations and their executives when it comes to their human rights conduct.
This podcast has been produced as part of a partnership with JusticeInfo.net, an independent website in French and English covering justice initiatives in countries dealing with serious violence. It is a media outlet of Fondation Hirondelle, based in Lausanne, Switzerland.
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