African Groups Rally to Enforce AU Support of International Criminal Court

African Groups Rally to Enforce AU Support of International Criminal Court

In 1998, the Rome Statute — which recognizes the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) establishment — was implemented, opening the gates for states in the global community to bring forth cases involving human rights and criminal issues, genocide and war crimes.

With war crimes and terrorism heightening is certain parts of Africa, prosecution of individuals and groups has been shaky even with the help of the Netherlands-based ICC. This doesn’t mean that nations in the continent have given up on the judicial system. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 140 groups have recently come together to address African parties associated with the Rome Statute, encouraging them to stand strong in support of the ICC at the upcoming African Union (AU) forum.

“Southern Africa was at the forefront of pressing for a permanent international criminal court. South Africa and other Southern Africa Development Community members should press the AU to work to expand the reach of justice, not cripple it,” Angela Mudukuti, International Criminal Justice Programme Project Lawyer said in the report.

As of late, Human Rights Watch noted, the ICC has been accused of negatively targeting African countries although 122 states — including those from Europe and Oceania — are signed onto the Rome Statute treaty which also allows prosecution of individuals in member jurisdictions.

“Five African states asked the ICC to investigate crimes committed in their countries – Côte d’Ivoire, Uganda, Central African Republic, Mali, and Democratic Republic of Congo,” Georges Kapiamba, Congolese Association for Access to Justice president continued in the report. “These states have particular authority and responsibility to dispel claims that the ICC is targeting Africa.”

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He says that despite targeting claims, there are still African territories that have reached out for help and that rely on the ICC for support. Chinonye Obiagwu, Nigeria Legal Defense and Assistant Project national coordinator agrees. Nigeria, Ghana and Botswana have been especially supportive in representing African states which are for the ICC.

“This year Nigeria and Ghana both acknowledged the ICC as a crucial court of last resort, and are thus well placed to play a positive leadership role at the summit,” Obiagwu said. “They should actively push back against unprincipled attacks on the court and support the ICC’s ability to operate without interference, including in Kenya.”

A total of 149 civil society organizations pleaded with African states to consider the repercussions of pulling away from the Rome Statute, writing that African states were among those most essential in the creation of the ICC. In addition to saying that the ICC is a consistent and fair outline for justice, it also plays a “crucial role in the fight against impunity,” the letter read.

Kenya, another African ICC state is in the hot seat for requesting help from the ICC, but failing to comply with measures needed to prosecute those involved in the 2007-2008 election violence.