In June 2015, Coalition members traveled from over 20 countries to Benin to strategize on ending impunity for grave crimes in Africa. Here are the main takeaways.
1. Civil society’s common goal remains championing the Rome Statute (RS) system to advance accountability for the grave crimes that continue to blight many African countries. African nongovernmental organizations expressed solidarity with the efforts to hold the South African state to its obligations to arrest ICC fugitive Omar al-Bashir in June 2015, which underlined the crucial role that civil society plays in developing peaceful and robust democracies.
2. The ICC continues to play a vital role in advancing justice in Africa. People want justice for grave crimes nationally or through the ICC. The RS gives the framework to strengthen national accountability mechanisms. African governments should work to make the ICC system more effective. Much needs to be done to raise awareness of the ICC and its mandate to bolster support and counter politicization.
3. African states have clear obligations to cooperate with the ICC. African leaders must have the courage to voice their support for the ICC at the African Union (AU) and other fora. The continuing cooperation of many states with the ICC and a growing number of national proceedings demonstrate a strong desire for justice in Africa.
4. The Assembly of States Parties must put in place strong mechanisms to deal with instances of non-cooperation, which undermine the ICC’s ability to deliver justice to victims of grave crimes.
5. Accountability for grave crimes is the responsibility of the entire international community. The UN Security Council must play its role in advancing justice. All states and international actors should renew their commitment to the ICC and RS, full cooperation and oppose any consideration of immunities for heads of state and senior government officials.
6. The mandate of the AU is consistent with the RS on the protection of human rights, including accountability for grave international crimes. The AU must advance its own mechanisms to ensure accountability, including its transitional justice framework, and engage in dialogue with the ICC.
WHAT THEY SAID
Clement Capo-Chichi, Africa regional coordinator, Coalition for the ICC.
“Civil society travelled from across Africa eager to share what justice means for them. ICC and ASP representatives further enriched the debates. We are one step closer to enhancing civil society participation in the Rome Statute system.”
Onyinye Okaah, coordinator, Nigeria Coalition for the ICC
“A concerted effort from states parties and national coalitions for the ICC is badly needed to combat impunity. This meeting inspired me to continue promoting victims’ rights in Nigeria and to demand that those who commit these violations are investigated and prosecuted—either at home or at the ICC.”
Ali Ouattarra, president, Côte d’Ivoire Coalition for the ICC
“We took stock of the work of the ICC on the African continent, proposed new strategies to reduce the negative perceptions, and shared best practices of national coalitions. This was an opportunity to propose ways to make the ICC in Africa more fair, efficient and effective.”
Aboubacry Mbodji, secretary general, Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme, Senegal
“This was an invaluable opportunity for NGOs to reiterate their respective missions to promote, defend and protect human rights, prevent, manage and resolve conflicts, promote the right to redress and access to justice for all, promote international criminal justice and advocate for the repression of grave crimes.”
Roland Abeng, coordinator, Cameroon Coalition for the ICC
“Judiciaries all over Africa should follow the South African example by taking their responsibilities and becoming a veritable, natural and independent arm of government for the enhancement of the rule of law both on a national and international scale.”
Mama Koite Doumbia, president, Mali Coalition for the ICC
“This meeting was an important opportunity for African civil society to gather and find ways to better promote international justice and accountability. We agreed on new strategies to address crucial ICC issues and relations with the AU and African states.”
WHO WAS THERE?
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (Malawi), Children’s Education Society (Tanzania), Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (Nigeria), Nigerian Coalition for the ICC, Coalition Burundaise pour la CPI, Coalition Ivoirienne pour la CPI, Coalition nationale pour la CPI de la RDC, Fondation Congolaise pour la Promotion des Droits humains et la Paix (DRC), Institute for Security Studies-Pretoria (South Africa), Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International-Togo, Kenya Human Rights Commission, ICJ Kenya, CAR Coalition for the ICC, Mali Coalition for the ICC, Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme (Senegal), Uganda Coalition for the ICC, ACAT- Madagascar, Cameroon Coalition for the ICC. Human Rights First- Rwanda, African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (Sudan), International Refugee Rights Initiative, Benin Coalition for the ICC, South African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (Zambia), and Media Foundation for West Africa (Ghana).
Guest participants were Deborah Ruiz Verduzco, representing ASP President Sidiki Kaba, Amady Ba, ICC Office of the Prosecutor and Jean Michel Beaucher, ICC office in Côte d’Ivoire.
This article was originally published in the 2015-16 Global Justice Monitor.