Cybersecurity Breach Disrupts Operations at International Criminal Court

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The International Criminal Court (ICC), seated in The Hague, Netherlands, was reportedly functioning amid technical difficulties last Thursday. These issues – affecting email communications, streaming capabilities, and document-sharing platforms – have arisen following a cyber-security breach earlier in the week. The prestigious judicial body, renowned for dealing with cases relating to war crimes, admitted to experiencing an unauthorised system infiltration on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, the ICC has refrained from making additional disclosures as it aims to maintain its core tasks. Top amongst these is the ongoing trial of two individuals who are strongly suspected of spearheading militias in the Central African Republic.

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In the past, the Court has taken bold steps like in March, when it issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of child deportations from Ukraine. The Kremlin vehemently dismissed these charges and challenged the Court’s authority.

In addition to this, the Court’s prosecutors are deeply engaged in investigating allegations of war crimes in several regions, including Ukraine, Sudan and Afghanistan.

Due to the cyber-incident, the Court had to unplug most of its digitally connected systems on Thursday, disabling internet access for its employees. Consequently, services like email and remote document viewing got affected, according to inside information from two different sources.

While the trial concerning assaults on Muslim civilians in Central African Republic resumed, technical failures meant that live-streamed proceedings were down and no audio was reaching spectators in the galleries, as relayed by court personnel to the media.

Geert-Jan Knoops, an attorney serving on the defense, claimed that limited systems’ access at the Court complicated their efforts, stressing the need for transparency about the potential exposure of sensitive materials due to the cyber-infraction. Content such as criminal evidence or identifying details of protected witnesses might be at risk.

The defendants of this ongoing trial, Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona and Alfred Yekatom, have asserted their innocence.

In this strained situation, Mylene Dimitri, who is defending Yekatom, indicated that she personally delivered information, now relegated to USB drives and paper binders, from one office to another. Telegraphing the extent to which the hacking has disrupted usual court proceedings, Dimitri communicated that only live witnesses were currently being heard. Testimonies via videolink from other individuals have been delayed.