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

Nearly 900 Dead, Missing in 2014 Air Disasters

Southeast Asia took a particularly heavy hit; 3 major events involved weather, two planes were shot down in eastern Ukraine, and one crash was attributed to mechanical problems More

Video Islamic State Emergence Transformed Syria, Iraq in 2014

'It was very clear that there were problems building up in Iraq at the end of 2013 but everybody was distracted by Syria,' says one expert, explaining group's rapid rise More

Rights Group: IS Executed Nearly 2,000 People in Syria in 6 Months

Islamist group also killed 120 of its own members, most foreign fighters trying to return home, in past two months, according to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights 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.
Russians Head Into Holiday Facing Economic Malaisei
X
Daniel Schearf
December 25, 2014 4:34 PM
Russian preparations for the New Year holiday are clouded by economic recession and a tumbling currency, the ruble. Nonetheless, people in the Russian capital appear to be in a festive mood. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Russians Head Into Holiday Facing Economic Malaise

Russian preparations for the New Year holiday are clouded by economic recession and a tumbling currency, the ruble. Nonetheless, people in the Russian capital appear to be in a festive mood. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Mombasa in Holiday Tourism Slump Due to Security Fears

Kenya's usually popular beachside tourist destination of Mombasa is seeing a much slower holiday season this year due to fears of insecurity as the country has suffered from a string of terror attacks linked to Somali militants. Mohammed Yusuf reports for VOA on how businessmen and tourists feel about the situation.
Video

Video For Somalis, 2014 Marked by Political Instability Within Government

While Somalia has long been torn apart by warfare and violence, this year one of the country's biggest challenges has come from within the government, as political infighting curtails the country's progress, threatens security gains and disappoints the international community. VOA's Gabe Joselow report.
Video

Video 2014 Saw Intensification of Boko Haram Insurgency

The year 2014 saw Nigerian militant sect Boko Haram intensify its five-year insurgency and target civilians in large numbers as it seized territory in the northeast. The kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls in Chibok in April sparked global outrage, but failed to become the turning point against the sect that Nigeria’s president said it would be. The picture at year's end is one of devastation and uncertainty. VOA’s Anne Look reports.
Video

Video Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syria

Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
Video

Video US Political Shift Could Affect Iran Nuclear Talks

Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to resolve Iran’s nuclear crisis are continuing into 2015 after Iran and six world powers failed to agree by a November deadline. U.S. domestic politics, however, could complicate efforts to reach a deal in the new year. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video NYSE: The Icon of Capitalism

From its humble beginnings in 1792 to its status as an economic bellweather for the world, the New York Stock Exchange is an integral part of the story of America. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from Wall Street.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Fight to Survive Water Crisis

In a region choking from dwindling water supplies, Lebanon has long been regarded as one of the few places where there is enough. But in recent years, half the people in the country have faced severe shortages. And the more than 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon are hit the worst by the water crisis, making the country's most vulnerable people increasingly impoverished and sick. Heather Murdock reports for VOA in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid