24th Summit of the African Union: "The AU Must Guarantee a Peace and Security in Africa Founded on Human Rights and Justice"

23/01/2015
Press release
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FIDH calls on the African Union (AU) to demonstrate, on the occasion of its 24th Ordinary Summit, its commitment to confront the issues of terrorism and insecurity in Africa, by coordinating the action of its member states based on respect for human rights, and by supporting systems of justice that can contribute to the maintenance or re-establishment of peace.

According to Karim Lahidji, FIDH President, "there is no longer any region of the African continent that is spared from the impact of new types of conflict and the increase in transnational threats. In the face of these multiple challenges to security, the AU must show its commitment by making human rights and justice the basis of its legitimacy in combatting terrorism and insecurity" .

To achieve these goals, the AU must develop not only a continent-wide strategy to combat terrorism that respects human rights, but also a coherent strategy to fight against the impunity of those committing international crimes. To fight against terrorism, the AU must, for example, consider the deployment of human rights observers in crisis situations such as those in Nigeria and Cameroon. The AU must also work against any exploitation of this fight against terrorism which might restrict the legitimate exercise of people’s freedoms, as has been seen in several countries including Egypt. Further, the AU must support judicial procedures working at national level in still-fragile countries such as Mali, where legal actions have been started on the crimes committed in the north in January 2012 and those committed by the military junta in 2013. For many stakeholders in Mali, the completion of such legal processes will constitute a guarantee that there will not be a repetition of the atrocities committed in this country.

In South Sudan and in the Central African Republic (CAR), the action taken by the AU must be reinforced, to match up to the scale and seriousness of the crimes committed by those involved in these conflicts. In these two countries, the AU must support the establishment of hybrid criminal courts, composed of national and international investigators and judges specialising in the enquiry and prosecution of those committing very serious crimes.

To quote Patrick Baudouin, FIDH Honorary President and Head of its Litigation Action Group, "the creation of hybrid courts seems to be essential in South Sudan and in Central African Republic, where civilians have been the victims of mass crimes, where no national judicial proceeding has taken place, where the state structures are cruelly lacking in capacity and where the people no longer have confidence in institutions which they fear have become too partisan. The creation of such jurisdiction can enable the return of justice in these countries where the correlation between impunity and the recurrence of conflicts is only too evident" .

To achieve this, in South Sudan the AU must publish without delay the conclusions of the Commission of inquiry established in March 2014, whilst ensuring that these conclusions contain recommendations calling for the creation of a hybrid criminal court. In the CAR, where on 8 August 2014 the authorities and the United Nations signed a memorandum of understanding providing for the creating of a Special Criminal Court (SCC) composed of Central African and international judges, the AU must call for the National Transitional Council (CNT) to adopt as soon as possible a legal bill creating this court and to provide investigators and specialised magistrates for it.

For FIDH, such national judicial proceedings or the setting-up of hybrid courts must not be a substitute for the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose capacity and expertise allow it to prosecute and try those in the highest positions who have been responsible for serious international crimes. Drissa Traoré, FIDH Vice-President, says, "the efforts undertaken by the African Union to curb the cycles of violence must also be accompanied by an increased co-operation with the ICC. Inquiries have been opened recently by the Prosecutor of the ICC into crimes committed in Mali and in the CAR, at the request of these states, which must be supported in their fight against impunity. The dissuasive effect of the ICC can also be shown to be indispensable in situations of extreme urgency where the justice system is virtually unable of taking action or responding to the threat posed by terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, AQIM or the Somalian Shebabs" .

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