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    Undesirable and unreturnable individuals : rethinking the International Criminal Court’s human rights obligations towards detained witnesses

    Pulvirenti, Rossella ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5859-7215 (2022) Undesirable and unreturnable individuals : rethinking the International Criminal Court’s human rights obligations towards detained witnesses. Leiden Journal of International Law, 35 (2). pp. 433-451. ISSN 0922-1565

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    Abstract

    In March 2011, three defence witnesses, who were in detention in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), were transferred to The Hague to testify before the ICC in the trial against Katanga and Chui. Once the witnesses had testified, they were returned to the DRC, even though they feared for their lives, and had lodged an asylum request with the Dutch authorities. This article argues that the ICC is bound by the principle of non-refoulement: a prohibition on returning or extraditing an individual to a country where there is a real risk, or substantial grounds, that they might be subjected to torture or other human rights violations. ICC witnesses, like other individuals, should enjoy protection from refoulement. This conclusion is based on analysis of the relationship between the ICC and international human rights law through two different approaches. The ICC, as an international organisation, is obliged to respect the principle of non-refoulement but additional obligations stem from the Rome Statute. Article 21(3) obligates the ICC to interpret and apply the law governing protective measures in conformity with ‘internationally recognised’ human rights. In concluding that the ICC has not fully acknowledged the extent of witnesses’ rights, this article proposes strengthening the role of the witness protection programme to address the evident deficiencies in the ICC’s current practice.

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