Immunity for government leaders will harm the African court

via Immunity for government leaders will harm the African court May 14, 2014 The Institute for Security Studies

Pretoria, South Africa – A proposal to give immunity to sitting government leaders before Africa’s regional court would be a major setback for justice for grave crimes, African organisations from 19 countries and international organisations with a presence in Africa said in a letter to African governments released yesterday.

Justice ministers and attorney generals of African Union (AU) member countries are scheduled to meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 15 and 16 May 2014, to consider a draft protocol to expand the authority of the African Court on Justice and Human Rights to include criminal jurisdiction over genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

A proposal providing immunity for heads of state and senior government officials from prosecution for such crimes is being considered as part of the amended protocol.

‘Exempting sitting heads of state and senior government officials from African Court jurisdiction on grave crimes would shield the powerful from the reach of the law,’ said Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa. ‘This is fundamentally at odds with the AU Constitutive Act, which rejects impunity.’

The consideration of the draft protocol comes at a time of intense opposition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by some African leaders, particularly in the face of the ICC’s proceedings against Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, who were later elected as Kenya’s resident and vice president.

‘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. ‘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.’

International conventions, including the Convention against Torture, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and the Geneva Conventions of 1949 recognise the imperative of accountability for grave crimes irrespective of the title or position of those responsible. The irrelevance of official capacity before international criminal courts has become entrenched in international law since the post-World War II trials before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.

Immunity with respect to serious crimes is also barred before some domestic courts in Africa.

‘Even domestic law in Kenya and South Africa bars immunity for sitting officials before domestic courts on grave crimes,’ said Stella Ndirangu, program manager at the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists. ‘African governments should not roll back important progress in ensuring perpetrators can be held to account.’

For media interviews and further information contact:

Jemima Njeri, +27 83 234 6566 or +27 12 346 9500, jnjeri@issafrica.org

About the Institute for Security Studies The ISS is an African organisation that aims to enhance human security on the continent. It does independent and authoritative research, provides expert policy analysis and advice, and delivers practical training and technical assistance.

 

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 9
  • comment-avatar
    Gomogranny 8 years ago

    It’s a great idea. Why should African leaders have to account for murdering their people? Why should they have to account for destroying the homes of their people in mid winter? Why should they have to account for destroying the future of generations of their countrymen? What a ridiculous idea? You must see that they are leaders, they are gods, they are untouchable! They are Africans who do not need to be told what is right and what is wrong – THEY and they alone will decide! And so we have a Continent of chaos…

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    John Thomas 8 years ago

    The law of the jungle rules

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    The Old Boy’s Club “The AU” will never allow their members to be sent to court. African rulers and ruling parties know nothing about human rights and they care even less about Africans as people. Once in power the common folk are slaves..

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    Doris 8 years ago

    SADC Tribunal is a prime example of how African Leaders (or should I say “Leader”) can intimidate. Really? All depends on who sits on the Tribunals, and how many fingers there are in the pie. The threat of exposure for sins committed is always there. However, remember that The Hague has an enormous amount of paperwork that proves without doubt, the sins these swines have committed. The truth will be exposed in time – that is for sure.

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    Brian 8 years ago

    The fly in this ointment is the Hague limitation dates. RGM in Zim will not go there for Gukurahundi because it pre-dates the Hague’s conventions jurisdiction dates.

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    Petal 8 years ago

    the gap between rich and pooris so wide on the continent. Most are still cannot access the very basic needs

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    Petal 8 years ago

    A good example was when the Kenyan Leader was supposed to appear before the ICC THEY ALL SHOUTED AGAINST IT eith the exception of ONE

  • comment-avatar
    Petal 8 years ago

    is this BOB STILL HOSTING THE ETHIOPIAN LEADER WHO ABSCONDED FROM ETHIOPIA???

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    Petal 8 years ago

    until there is law ON THE CONTINENT that will say PROSECUTE THOSE WHO ABUSE THEIR POWER – its not happening – THE AFRICAN UNION WANTS IMMUNITY FOR THE A… HOLES HOW STUPID CAN YOU GET?

    THE SADC IS JUST AS USELESS- how can you make Mugabe a Ceremonial Leader? This is the orgainisation that should be dealing with REAL ISSUES – Human Rights organisations, and Migrant Organisation and those in Civl Society are taking their own sweet time to face the AU and SADC FACE TO FACE
    AFRICAN PEOPLES TIME AS IT IS CALLED where people take their own sweet time to deal with important issues
    The african leaders do not give a STUFF ABOUT THE ORDINARY PEOPLE THEY SERVE – IT IS ALWAYS ABOUT THEM THEY ARE THE ONES LOOTING PROSECUTE THEM