ICC Members Should Show Leadership on Justice

Press release
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African governments have taken important steps this year in ensuring justice for the gravest crimes, but further leadership is needed, said African civil society organizations and international organizations [1] in a letter released today.

African governments are meeting for the 25th summit of the African Union, which takes place from June 8 to 15 in South Africa. The signatories of the group letter have representation in more than a dozen African cities and are among the most active partners of an informal group of African civil society organisations and international organisations to ensure the fight against impunity succeeds whenever serious crimes in violation of international law are committed.
This year has seen important steps to promote justice for grave crimes, including progress in the case against former Chadian president Hissène Habré in Senegal and the surrender of Lord’s Resistance Army leader Dominic Ongwen to the ICC,” said Penny Mbabazi of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative in Uganda. But the cause of justice continues to face challenges, and grave crimes continue to be committed with little or no accountability in parts of Africa, such as South Sudan.”
While the majority of AU members are also members of the ICC, most of those states lack laws that fully incorporate genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity and cooperation with the ICC, the groups said. Victims may feel further victimised by the injustice when the state does not take steps to remedy the harm caused to them.
The AU rotating chair for 2015, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, also threatened in January to push for African ICC members to withdraw from the ICC at the June summit. In the days leading up to the summit, Malawi officials told reporters that it would not consider withdrawal. Botswana has consistently stressed its support for the ICC when the court has come under attack at the AU.
More states should follow Malawi’s recent move to publicly oppose calls for ICC withdrawal and Botswana’s public backing of the ICC in the face of efforts to undermine it,” said Timothy Mtambo of Malawi’s Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation. “The ICC is a crucial court that can be strengthened and should be supported.”
The letter also calls on African ICC members to:

  • Enhance the capacity of AU mechanisms to respond to conflict situations to avoid international crimes and to facilitate accountability.
  • Call for and support credible national proceedings to hold perpetrators of serious crimes to account, such as in the Central African Republic.
  • 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.
  • Promote victims participation in domestic proceedings on grave crimes.
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