News / Africa

Civil Society Groups: Support Justice for Gravest Crimes

International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo (file photo)
International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo (file photo)

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

Civil society groups are urging African nations to show support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the AU summit in Equatorial Guinea.

Some 125 organizations in more than 25 African countries issued a report Monday called Observations and Recommendations on the ICC. It calls on African member countries of the ICC to “support justice for the gravest crimes.”

The AU, however, has called for a delay in the ICC prosecution of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. It has also called for a delay of an investigation into Kenya’s post-election violence. That has stirred some controversy. Now, the ICC has issued arrest warrants for another African leader, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi.

ICC and Africa

“I think African civil society takes very seriously the responsibility that many of us feel to protect victims of serious international crimes and to drive an initiative to promote accountability and an end for impunity for these crimes,” said Anton du Plessis of the International Crime in Africa Program at South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria.

African civil society has voiced its support for the ICC on previous occasions, as well.

“It’s not the ICC itself that these African civil society groups are supporting. It’s just a continental effort to end impunity for these crimes that ravage the continent so regularly and in such devastating ways,” he said.

Accountability

The report, in part, gives the groups a voice in calling for justice.

Du Plessis said, “The question of accountability for these crimes is not something which is completely controlled by the governments themselves. That civil society do own some of the space and are very interested in making sure that African governments stick to the commitments, which they themselves proclaim as part of the African Union, particularly Article 4H of the AU Constitutive Act.”

In part, that article calls for “respect for democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and good governance” and “respect for the sanctity of human life, condemnation and rejection of impunity and political assassination, acts of terrorism and subversive activities.”

AU

“I think when we speak of Africa or the AU we need to remember that African states were at the forefront of creating the International Criminal Court. Currently, Africa is the biggest regional block represented on the ICC, with, I think, 32 African states as parties to the treaty. And African countries, many of them, have fought their own human rights struggles and have set very important precedents internationally as human rights defenders,” he said.

Du Plessis said there may be a perception of an AU “backlash” against the court.

“Of course, Africa has been on the receiving end of international criminal justice with seven situations currently before the ICC at this stage,” he said.

African governments themselves had asked the ICC to act in most of those cases, for example in the DRC and Uganda.  But the arrest warrants for President al-Bashir have caused some tension between the AU and the international community. Reaction regarding Mr. Gadhafi is just beginning.

Justice can move slowly

“Libya and Sudan are interesting situations because both of those were actually referred to the International Criminal Court by the U.N. Security Council because they were considered by the council to threats to international peace and security,” he said.

In both cases, the ICC wants to prosecute sitting heads of state.

“That is essentially where serious issues of sovereignty come into play and also the traditional notions of heads of state immunity are questioned. So, these two decisions by the Security Council have created a lot of disquiet in Africa, particularly on the role of the International Criminal Court,” he said.

Du Plessis does not expect a quick solution to these matters.

“Justice for these crimes does take time and don’t think we should have too many expectations that this will be handled in a matter of months. I think that’s one thing to recognize. The second one is that international criminal justice plays itself out in an incredibly complex and ever changing political environment. And that political environment needs sensitive navigation,” he said.

The indictment of President al-Bashir in 2002, he said, is an example of that.

“We just never know where things are going to be down the line after the arrest warrant today was issued for Ghadafi, but as international criminal justice has shown in the cases of others…that justice is patient and it’s vitally important that we don’t try and rush the process too much at this stage, he said.

The civil society report also calls on African ICC states “to ensure the election at the end of 2011 of the most qualified candidate as the next ICC prosecutor through a fair and merit-based process.”

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs