The I.C.C and Africa

Memba Ben By Memba Ben, 14th Apr 2017 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/2wg7z0n-/
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Columns & Opinions

A look at the strained relationship between African countries/leaders and the International Criminal Court and how that could bring the birth of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights.

Is the dawn of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights at hand?

It’s been well known that since 2008, African leaders have been meeting up to implement a plan to transform the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights into the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, making it an African alternative to the International Criminal Court.

This plan had been revisited after Gambia recently became the third country on the continent to announce its withdrawal from the Hague-based tribunal.

The move follows announcements from Burundi and South Africa, who announced their decision to quit the court last week, making them the first countries to begin the year-long exit process in the court’s 18-year history.

The formation of this court doesn’t come as a surprise because for the longest time, African leaders have been unhappy with the International Criminal Court for allegedly targeting Africans and reinforcing colonial bias.

These concerns of African leaders come from the fact that out of the 10 cases currently being investigated by the court, nine involve African countries and that all the ICC arrest warrants that have been issued so far have only ever been for Africans.

South Africa announced it would be leaving the court on the grounds that the ICC’s Rome statutes were at odds with its own laws granting leaders diplomatic immunity.
This comes after the South African government allowed Omar Al-Bashir into the country and to leave, despite SA being part of the ICC and Bashir being wanted by the ICC.

African leaders believe they can deliver justice better than how the International Criminal Court currently does and believe that with the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, they think they may have found a platform to do it efficiently.

In May last year, a group of legal experts brought together by the African Union met and discussed ways to broaden the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights by adding a judicial section which deals with the trials and subsequent sentencing of accused individuals, making the ICC obsolete.

These discussions were followed by a meeting of justice ministers who incorporated the legal experts’ recommendations into a draft protocol, merging the African Human
Rights Court with the African Court of Justice.

Basically speaking, it would be a unified African court designed to judge general matters, violations of human rights (state responsibility) and international crimes (individual responsibility) perpetrated by Africans.

Now for those who don’t know, The African Human Rights Court is the only continental court that exists in Africa today. Like any court, the African Human Rights Court is dependent on cases being referred to it. Most of the time, cases are passed by the African Human Rights Commission when the commission feels unable to deal with the matter. However, it is also important to remember that it is mainly the responsibility of African States to prosecute offenders. The African Human Rights Court and the African Human Rights Commissions can only intervene if national courts feel they are unable to reach a satisfactory verdict.

But despite the court only being formed 13 years ago, it is still faced with a handful of problems.

Because the African Human Rights Court is still in its infancy, it had to spend more time and resources on campaigns to raise its profile and legitimacy. Because of this, they haven’t made any impact on the continent. They have been slow to pass judgment on cases and when they do, the rulings have been on small issues.

Another issue is that because the court wouldn’t be ratified by many African Union members. Only 26 out of 54 African countries have recognized the Human Rights Court, making their rulings technically impossible to enforce. The African Court of Justice and Human Rights would be no different.

Financially, the court would be too expensive to fund. As it is, the ICC works on an expenditure of $140 million yearly. Who would be willing to cough up the money to create an African court that will do what the ICC is already doing?

The African Court of Justice and Human Rights will be plagued with legal, diplomatic, political and most significantly, financial problems. Implementing this court will effectively crush what little progress the Human Rights Court has made to bring justice to Africa. Because of these cons, African leaders had no choice but to momentarily put the idea of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights on the backburner. However, the frustration and weariness towards the ICC remains, making it very likely that the idea will be revisited every time an ICC arrest warrant is issued or the ICC leans on African countries and their leaders to comply with investigations.

With respect to our leaders, our beloved continent is in no position to bring war criminals and countries responsible for perpetrating these horrors to justice. Perhaps one day, The African Human Rights Court might be able to hold states accountable in practice as well as in law, but individuals are another matter entirely. How will the responsibility of the weight of the crime be judged? Who will bear the weight of that responsibility, the mastermind or the people following orders?

To go further, who is to say countries will turn over accused parties? Who is to say that the judicial process will remain fair and impartial to all? Who is to say that the people who would be running the court aren’t corruptible? There are many powerful factions within Africa and many more who are not from Africa but have interests within the continent. Without a doubt they will want to protect their interests/assets so if the situation comes where they are threatened, who is to say that they can’t get people within the courts to protect them? As it is, Africans are fiercely loyal people. Who is to say that should allies be in the firing line, the people in charge of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights won’t cast a blind eye to their indiscretions?

Right now, the best African alternative to the ICC we have is a court riddled with issues that the African Court of Justice and Human Rights would face and clearly, that court isn’t fairing so well. Until a better solution arises, Africa has no other alternative but to either keep faith that the experiment that is the Human Rights Court will eventually work out or forget their grievances and put their support behind the ICC.

Tags

Africa, Icc, International Criminal Court, Judicial Branch, Politics

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