#GlobalJusticeWeekly – African Union: Bolster progress towards justice

African heads of state pose for a photo at the AU summit. © SEWA News

African heads of state pose for a photo at the AU summit. © SEWA News

Strong leadership from ICC member states is needed to bolster important progress being made all over Africa towards justice for grave crimes, civil society said this week ahead of the 25th African Union (AU) summit in South Africa.

In letter to justice and foreign ministers, 25 African and international civil society organizations called on ICC member states attending the summit to:

  • Enhance the capacity of AU to respond to conflict situations in a manner that both seeks to preempt the occurrence of international crimes and facilitates accountability within transitional justice frameworks;
  • Strengthen the principle of complementarity by calling for and supporting credible national proceedings;
  • Express support for the ICC at the AU summit and to commit to cooperating with the ICC;
  • Ensure that such support is reflected in the decisions, declarations, and resolutions of the Assembly of the African Union;
  • Reconsider and revise their stand on immunities for sitting heads of state and government along with senior government officials brought before the jurisdiction of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights;
  • Reflect on adopting ICC implementing legislation at the domestic level and providing victims of international crimes the opportunity to participate in legal proceedings including in the form of reparative rights;
  • Ensure the protection of witnesses inside and outside of the courtroom is also needed to ensure effective proceedings at the national level.

Activists from across the continent and international organizations with a presence in Africa have been countering political attacks on the ICC on behalf of victims of some of the world’s worst crimes since 2009 writes Elise Keppler of Human Rights Watch.

In the Mail and Guardian, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) called on South Africa to take lead at the summit on key human rights abuses in the region.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s call for African states to withdraw from the ICC has been met with stiff resistance, with Malawi and Botswana among those to reiterate their commitment to the Rome Statute.

The summit, taking place in Johannesburg and Pretoria, runs from June 7 to 15.

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir. © AP

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir. © AP

South Africa: Arrest al-Bashir
Sudanese officials are reported to have said that President Omar al-Bashir will attend the AU summit on Saturday. While many remain skeptical, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre is preparing an application to a domestic court have him arrested should he enter the territory.

Al-Bashir has been wanted by the ICC since 2005 for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur. South Africa, as an ICC member state, is under international obligation to arrest and transfer ICC suspects.

Earlier in the week, the Bashir Watch civil society coalition called on South Africa to rescind its invitation to the Sudanese president, or to arrest him upon arrival.



Central African Republic
FIDH welcomed CAR’s decision to create a special court to prosecute graves international crimes.

Kenya
The last prosecution witness in the ICC trial of Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and broadcaster Joshua Sang has refused to testify. ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has applied to be allowed to use Rule 68 to have statements recorded by several witnesses admitted as evidence. About 16 out of 42 witnesses are reported to have withdrawn their testimonies and stopped co-operating with the Office of the Prosecutor.

Darfur
Human Rights Watch reported on the devastating impact of ongoing conflict on civilians in Darfur and called for continued presence of UN forces.

Democratic Republic of Congo
Acquitted Congolese militia leader Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui described facing charges at the ICC and his views on the Court in an interview with Al Jazeera. Families of those disappeared in violent protestsurged the DRC government to exhume a mass grave.

Uganda
The trial of 13 men accused of taking part in the 2010 al-Shebab bombings resumed following the murder of lead prosecutor Joan Kegazi. The latest extension to Uganda’s amnesty law is proving controversial.

Preliminary Examinations
Allegations of human rights violation could land Nigerian military officials to the ICC writes Emmanuel Onwubiko of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria. Nigerian president Muhammadu Buharivowed his government will “leave no stone unturned” investigating alleged torture, abuse and killings committed against civilians by counter-terrorism offensive against Boko-Haram. New technologies havehelped Amnesty International locate and review new evidence in war crimes in Nigeria.

An ICC team will arrive in Israel on 27 June as of its ongoing Palestine preliminary examination. Israel exonerated itself over the death of four children on a Gaza beach reports the Guardian.

In Colombia, government and the FARC rebel group have committed to forming truth commission following final peace deal, despite ongoing tensions, DW reports, saying that the commission will not have the power to punish perpetrators.

Ukraine should ask ask the ICC to investigate war crimes say Aage Borchgrevink of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and Simon Papuashvili of the International Partnership for Human Rights.

What else is happening?
An analyst considers the possibility of Myanmar’s military regime being brought to the ICC for alleged grave crimes against the minority Rohingya population.

To deter atrocities, the ICC requires more diplomatic support, financial resources and logistical assistance from the UN Security Council writes Marian Pareja Rodriguez on OpenDemocracy.

The South African Muslim Lawyers Association has filed a request for the arrest of Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi upon his attendance at the AU summit.

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