Africa fights for immunity for government leaders

via Africa fights for immunity for government leaders | SW Radio Africa by Alex Bell on Friday, May 16, 2014

Attempts to secure immunity from prosecution for African government leaders has been criticised as a potentially “detrimental” move that would impact on the rule of law and justice on the continent.

African Justice Ministers and Attorney Generals gathered in Ethiopia this week, where they were set to discuss a proposal to absolve sitting African leaders for their part in genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The two day Ethiopia meeting was called to consider a draft protocol to expand the authority of the African Court on Justice and Human Rights to include criminal jurisdiction over these serious crimes. The draft protocol includes the proposed blanket immunity for heads of state.

Jemima Njeri, a senior researcher in the International Crime in Africa program at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), said the proposal “would be a major setback for justice for grave crimes.” She warned that this was a sign of Africa’s leaders “supporting each other,” at the expense of the rule of law.

“It is not right for African heads of state to include these amendments. It is detrimental to democracy,” Njeri told SW Radio Africa.

Human rights and justice groups from 19 African countries have since written to African governments, warning them that the rule of law is being threatened by the proposal.

“Impunity remains one of the biggest threats to human rights protection in Africa,” said Thuso Ramabolu, human rights officer at Lesotho’s Transformation Resource Centre, one of the signatories to the letter.

“It’s crucial for people responsible for mass atrocities to face justice, irrespective of their official positions. Immunity poses grave alarm and would create an incentive to hold on to power indefinitely,” Ramabolu added.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s Constitutional Court will on Monday hear the latest appeal against a landmark order for the authorities there to probe crimes against humanity committed in Zimbabwe.

Last year, the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a court order from 2012 that compelled the prosecuting authorities in South Africa to investigate torture and other crimes perpetrated in Zimbabwe. This was after the police and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had appealed the original order handed down by the North Gauteng High Court.

The South African police have then filed another appeal in January this year, arguing that among other issues, an investigation would infringe on the sovereignty of Zimbabwe and damage diplomatic relations.

The case is being led by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) and was based on a dossier detailing a politically motivated attack on MDC members in Zimbabwe in 2007. This dossier, which implicates 18 high level ZANU PF members, was handed to the NPA in 2008 but the prosecuting body and the police decided not to take the case further.

ZEF Director Gabriel Shumba told SW Radio Africa that the latest appeal is “without merit,” and the ZEF and SALC “will vigorously oppose the appeal.”


  • comment-avatar
    Tjingababili 9 years ago


  • comment-avatar

    Typical of these despots. Stop all aid in all forms

  • comment-avatar

    Since the greatest crimes in history have been committed by national leaders (Hitler, Stalin, Amin etc.), the proposal to give blanket immunity to heads of state is entirely without merit.

  • comment-avatar
    Senzachena 9 years ago

    They canned the SADC tribunal when they realised that it had the power to point finger in their direction. I have no doubt that they will “absolve themseleves” from crimes against humanity etc. A sick joke. Let the civilised world cut off all support and aid immediately, the only way to keep them in line is hurt their back pockets. If it was not so serious it would be pathetic!!

  • comment-avatar
    Mahlaba 9 years ago

    You really wonder if African were ready to rule themselves. Murder is just murder you can not justify it in any how. So all these people gather to try and protect Idi Amis of today?

  • comment-avatar
    Zambuko 9 years ago

    This is indeed a dreadful and shameful proposal. The message sent by African Heads of State, who support this idea, is that they cannot rule without committing human rights abuses. Human Rights abuses are, to them, acceptable tools in their political management toolkit. What a disrespectful proposal.

  • comment-avatar
    Brian 9 years ago

    The West knows that much of the aid to Africa ends up in pollies’ pockets thru associated 2nd and 3rd parties. Zim has trillions in diamonds, DRC = untold wealth – yet murder, rape and torture are all instruments employed by their dictators. South Sudan, Somalia, Libya, CAR, Eritrea – all African of the 28 Countries of Concern issued by the FCO (UK) in relation to human rights abuses. Those 28 are the worst of the worst in the world.

    Of course they’ll resist moral responsibility. Their wives have a lifestyle to sustain and travel and shopping and trinkets. What a basket case is Afrique – well taught by the West.

  • comment-avatar
    Kevin Watson 9 years ago

    Disgusting criminals who deserve punishment.

  • comment-avatar
    KIBBS 9 years ago

    They are not human beings. They are Gods!

  • comment-avatar
    Petal 9 years ago

    was there any sort of referendum held to ask the ordinary people – bet 100% -NO

    The african leaders must have made the decision amongst themselves because amongst them are alot of thieving thugs and they are running poop scared