African Court for Africans

2014-01-30 18:00

Africa should have its own court and justice structures, president of the African Court Sophia Akuffo has said.

Akuffo told City Press on the sidelines of the African Union (AU) assembly of heads of state in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which started today, that Africans should seek justice locally first before their cases are considered by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“In principle, the more local forum should have the first bite because there is the general principle of exhausting local remedies first,” she said.

“The protection of human rights is first and foremost state duty.”

Akuffo also said “it is time for Africa to have its own justice structures. Once you move in the way of the African Union, you need to have your institutions properly in place”.

The African Court is in the process of extending its jurisdiction to include criminal acts, which means it would overlap with the work of the ICC.

Two obstacles that need to be overcome is to define what the unconstitutional overthrow of a government entails, and getting enough money to take on the extra cases.

A court official who did not want to be identified said the northern countries, where the Arab Spring uprisings took place two years ago, wanted the court to distinguish between popular uprisings and the unconstitutional overthrow of a state.

He also said there would be administrative agreements with the ICC once the African Court has extended its jurisdiction to ensure that the two courts don’t clash while doing their work.

There has been talk within the AU that some member states feel the African Court should eventually replace the ICC.

Last year, the AU resolved that sitting heads of state could not be prosecuted by the ICC after both Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, had to appear before the ICC.

But the Kenyans said if both were out of the country at the same time it could cause a constitutional crisis.

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