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EAC: Africa's new tool against war crimes

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by BabuK, May 1, 2011.

  1. BabuK

    BabuK JF-Expert Member

    May 1, 2011
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    With the recent establishment of the African Court on Human Rights and People’s Rights in Arusha, the East African region and the rest of the continent now have an instrument to deal with cases of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
    While there has been a push by the African Union (AU) for the deferral of Kenyan cases pending before the International Criminal Court (ICC), few African countries have utilized the institutions of justice available on the continent.
    The African Court on Human Rights and People’s Rights, created by the AU, is aimed at enhancing the protection of human rights on the African continent. Working closely with the new court is the recently-activated Pan African Union of Lawyers (PALU), which engages AU organs and institutions on democracy, good governance, rule of law and human rights.
    In the past, there have been few trials in the continent on crimes against humanity, except for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha and the Sierra Leone Special Tribunal currently trying the former Liberian President, Charles Taylor, within the ICC premises at The Hague.
    For instance, to make use of the AU court, the victims of Kenyan post-election violence could use the African Court on Human Rights and People’s Rights and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights in Banjul, Gambia, to seek justice.
    Donald Deya, the PALU chief executive and the former Executive Secretary of the East African Law Society (EALS) told the independent East African News Agency (EANA) in an interview that Africa has created many organs and institutions do deal with issues of human rights, international crimes and economic injustices but they are hardly in operation because many African countries have not enlightened their citizens that these institutions, such as the COMESA court in Lusaka, are at their disposal.
    While the ICC is good for guarding against human rights abuses in the world,Deya said, there is still need for the continent to strengthen its own African institutions so that the majority of cases can be held in the Africa. If the state is unable, or unwilling, to handle these cases, then they can be held at the sub-regional or continental level.
    “We are potentially looking at a situation where the African Court of Human and People’s Rights would be able to try not only genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, which are the only three crimes the ICC can be able to try, but try other international crimes of concern to Africa such as piracy, terrorism, international corruption and the new crime of unconstitutional change of governments,” Deya said.
    Undoubtedly, Africa's Horn and the Great Lakes regions have been the scences of war crimes, with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan, Uganda, Burundi, Somalia, Ethiopia, Rwanda and of late Kenya, being some of the countries where crimes against humanity have allegedly been committed over the years.
    The challenge facing the continent is the current trend in which African presidents who have been defeated in elections refuse to surrender power, creating grounds for political upheavals and the resultant crimes against humanity.
    The Constitutive Act has the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. It has a committee of sanctions on unconstitutional change of governments under the Peace and Security Council.
    The debate now is whether refusal to hand over power after defeat should be considered in the same category as the “unconstitutional change of government.
    Deya argues that the AU has very strong laws of human rights and governance, but they have to be made more robust because they are sometimes not applied fully in certain cases. He gave the example where these rules were fully applied in Madagascar and recently in Ivory Coast, but were not applied effectively in the case of Zimbabwe.
    “While it would be preferable for African leaders to internalize human rights and good governance issues, the worst case scenario the AU can apply is the forceful removal of a leader who is in office unconstitutionally by the African Standby Brigade; that is what will actually give our leaders the message that Africa can act,” he said.
    Both DRC and Uganda have referred their nationals to the ICC for their alleged involvement in the commission of crimes against humanity. Presently, two cases from Ituri in the DRC are before the ICC - the cases against Thomas Lubanga, Germain Katanga and Mathew Ngudjolo Chui. An ICC arrest warrant has also been for Bosco Ntaganda, a former senior member of Laurent Nkunda’s National Congress for People’s Defence (CNDP).
    The case against former DRC vice-president, Jean-Pierre Bemba, relates to events in Central African Republic in 2002-2003. In Uganda, the government of Yoweri Museveni has also referred the case against the Joseph Kony of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to ICC.
    Credible national trials are necessary to ensure accountability if the continent is keen on avoiding the ICC trials. Former Ethiopian president, Mengistu Haile Mariam, is still holed up in Zimbabwe despite warrants for his arrest.
    Kenya has suffered election-related violence in 1992, 1997 and 2007 but it is the first time the perpetrators are being called to account.
    The Registrar of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ), Dr John Ruhangisa, has also lamented that many people in the region have very little knowledge of the court.
    ‘’Another issue is the reluctance to surrender sovereignty and jurisdiction by the EAC Partner States,’’ he told journalists recently from the five Partner States of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.

    To read more about EAC: East African Community - Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi
  2. Rungu

    Rungu JF-Expert Member

    May 1, 2011
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    This sounds more like wishful thinking. Anyway, it is a good idea!