Immunity will damage African Court

2014-07-08 07:13

According to Amnesty International (AI) African leaders have voted themselves immunity from the new Human Rights Court.

To quote Amnesty International: “We are deeply disappointed that African heads of state and governments have failed to provide the leadership needed to ensure justice for victims of crimes under international law, opting instead to shield themselves and future generations and leaders from prosecution for serious abuses”( http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/au-summit-decision-backward-step-international-justice-2014-07-01).

Furthermore, Hugo Relva, legal advisor at AI’s Law and Policy Program, said that “It’s a step backwards in the fight against impunity, and it’s also a betrayal of African victims of serious human rights violations.

For many years, some African governments and leaders have correctly accused the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague of unfairly or disproportionately targeting African leaders for prosecution.

Many critics believe the ICC appears to be dominated mainly by American and European concerns and only for selected criminals and lacks muscle.

To address their concerns African heads of state proposed an alternative court – African Court of Justice and Human Rights (African Court). This court was intended to correct the accusation against the ICC. The court was going to deal with human right violations, enforce justice and human rights and deal with other African problems.

But sadly, even before the new court could become functional, African leaders at the recently concluded African Union summit, held in Equatorial Guinea, voted to strip the African Court of power to prosecute them for genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity.

To quote from the amendment to Article 46A bis of the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights reads: “No charges shall be commenced or continued before the Court against any serving African Union Head of State or Government, or anybody acting or entitled to act in such capacity, or other senior state officials based on their functions, during their tenure of office.” (http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/au-summit-decision-backward-step-international-justice-2014-07-01).

Many human rights and justice activists have described this alteration of the protocols as disingenuous.

Mark Quarterman, Director of Research and Programs at the Enough Project, said that “in a continent that has been beset by terrible wars in which terrible atrocities have occurred, they are saying accountability for everyone but us”.

This decision by African Heads of State is a retrogressive step for the rule of law, accountability, human rights and justice.

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