Time-Limitation Clause Against Private Litigants of the East African Court of Justice: A Call For A Purposive Interpretation of Article 30(2) of the East African Community Treaty

by Dr. Ally Possi*

Introduction

East African Court of JusticeThis post exposes a major obstacle facing one of the African regional economic community judiciaries: the East African Court of Justice (EACJ, or the Court). The EACJ is the judicial organ embedded to settle disputes in connection with the East African Community (EAC) integration activities. Comparatively, the EACJ is a replica of other regional economic community courts, currently in existence, such as the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Private litigants play a key role in modelling states’ behaviour to realise their integration ambitions. One of the operational principles of the EAC is the ‘people-centered’ co-operation form of integration (art 7(1)(a) of the EAC Treaty). Therefore, it was not an oversight to permit individuals to account Member States before the EACJ, whenever there is an infringement of the EAC Treaty. However, article 30(2) of the Treaty restricts private litigants to lodge their complaints: within two months of the enactment, publication, directive, decision or action complained of, or in the absence thereof, of the day in which it came to the knowledge of the complainant, as the case may be.

Following a significant level of silence on the stringent rule, this post is vitally important considering the nature of the subject it tackles. Judges have been narrowly and strictly interpreting article 30(2) of the EAC Treaty, preventing private litigants to lodge their complaints to the EACJ with ease. Eventually, individuals are being denied access to justice. This post, therefore, argues that EACJ judges need to broadly and purposely interpret article 30(2) of the EAC Treaty. The grounds used to deny to extend the two months’ time window are contrary to the spirit of the EAC Treaty. Thus, this post provides some legal evidence for EACJ judges to stretch the rigorous time limitation clause. Continue reading

The International Criminal Court at 15: Battling the Acceptance Challenges

By Francis Dusabe*

International Criminal Court New PremisesIn its 15 years of existence, the International Criminal Court is undergoing an acceptance crisis especially on the African Continent. Political narratives have significantly shaken the Court’s legitimacy and has led to the questioning of its relevance in today’s world.

This paper examines Acceptance challenges faced by the court as of 2017 and explores prospects for change to enhance its social impact.

Introduction

On 17th July 2017, the international Criminal Court will clock 15 years of existence with only 26 cases across 10 situations. To reach where it is, it underwent a series of political condemnations, many of which were based on its operational and political flaws that pushed various State parties to consider quitting.

Whereas its existence symbolizes the global consensus that crimes of concerns to humanity as whole should not go unpunished, the court suffers from strategic flaws which, once unaddressed, will eventually become a turndown to the morale behind the whole project of International Criminal Justice.

This paper looks into the challenges faced by the court as of 2017 and explores prospects for change to ensure that the ICC, once a beacon of hope for Victims of international crimes, remain in existence with tangible social impact. More specifically, it explores the drives behind state acceptance of international criminal justice and the impact of Narratives on the Court’s perception. This paper ends with proposals on how to improve its image as a Court not only for Rome statute State Parties, but as an important arm for maintenance of world peace and security.

State Acceptance of international justice

State’s acceptance of International justice may be looked at on various aspects and may be investigated through various dimensions and factors namely the people concerned, how justice is defined in local context and the Victims’ expectation of what International Criminal Justice can bring. Continue reading

Inaction in the International Community: The Plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya

By Vani Sathisan*

Rohingya protestersIn February, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a report condemning the widespread human rights violations against the Rohingya population, a minority Muslim community, in Myanmar. The report states that a “calculated policy of terror” indicates the “very likely commission of crimes against humanity,” a view echoed by the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee. Following the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva in March, The UN Human Rights Council approved a resolution to “dispatch urgently” an international fact-finding mission to investigate alleged human rights violations by military and security forces against the Rohingya community. The Myanmar government, however, has rejected the UN probe for “inflaming” existent tensions, stating instead that the allegations are an “internal matter.”

Since deadly violence erupted in Myanmar’s Rakhine State in 2012, an estimated 140,000 people, mainly Rohingya and small groups of Rakhine Buddhists, have been internally displaced. Persecution by Rakhine Buddhists and the national government, which is controlled by the Bamar majority ethnic group, have forced even more Rohingya to flee Myanmar for neighboring countries, like Bangladesh. Myanmar’s lack of genuine commitment to the rule of law and to protecting the rights of the Rohingya further entrench exclusion, discrimination and marginalization, and violate a number of international human rights laws and norms. Continue reading

African Americans and Police: To Repair Broken Trust There Must Be a Reckoning First

by David Tolbert*

Milwaukee protestersI have spent my career working in societies across the globe as they confronted legacies of unspeakable human rights abuses. I witnessed the struggle for justice in the former Yugoslavia, Palestine, the Middle East, eastern Europe, Cambodia, Lebanon and a host of other countries where ICTJ works. I have learned lessons from them all. But while my work has taken me far and wide, my roots remain in my native Carolinas. It was there that I started life in the de jure and de facto segregated South –apartheid by another name – and there I first developed the sense of justice that has guided my work since.

I return to the Carolinas this week to take part in a conversation that confronts the legacy of that troubled past. It will be held at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, where the confederate flag flew on the statehouse grounds until 2015 and was only removed in the wake of the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. While I have taken part in similar conferences across the globe – often in places that are boiling with injustice – this trip resonates at the most personal of levels.

When Republicans were the party of Lincoln and not of Trump, my South Carolina family were Republican activists who opposed slavery, resisted secession, and fought for the rights of African Americans. For this they suffered assaults and abuses, although unlike their African American allies they had a choice on how to live their lives. In 1898, their attempts to help African-Americans vote led to white supremacists murdering over a dozen African Americans and shooting and severely wounding several of my ancestors in what is known in the history books as the “Phoenix Riot.” Thereafter, the Tolberts were repeatedly burned out of their homes, eventually leading them to build a house made entirely of stone with iron furniture, known as the “Rock House”, located outside Greenwood, South Carolina. Continue reading

Hope for Justice in Syria from an Unlikely Source

by David Tolbert*

An independent mechanism established by the UNGA is working towards abolishing the reign of criminal impunity in Syria.

UNGA

The Emir of Qatar, the country that led the efforts to establish the Mechanism alongside Liechtenstein, addressed the UNGA in September 2016 ©Reuters

Six years into the carnage in Syria, atrocious crimes run rampant, with savage abuses committed against all groups in the devastated country, and the murderous regime, abetted by powerful allies, is still in power.

The United Nations Security Council remains in a deadlock and unable to take any steps towards ensuring accountability for the massive crimes, with the International Criminal Court left on the sidelines.

However, amid the terrible loss of life, hope that the slow wheels of justice will finally be put in motion emerged recently from an unlikely source – the UN General Assembly.

In December 2016, the UNGA, led by Liechtenstein and Qatarestablished an “Independent Mechanism to assist in the investigation of serious crimes committed in Syria since March 2011”.

With this step the UNGA, usually associated with administrative and budgetary matters, has asserted itself in a highly welcome if unusual manner, signaling the deep frustration with the failure of other UN organs and the great powers to stop the killing in Syria.

The move also demonstrates that small states can galvanise the international community around issues of global significance and catalyse a collective response.

The term “Mechanism” indicates that the powers of this newly established body will not mirror those of a court or a commission of inquiry.

Instead, the focus of its mission will be to collect and analyse evidence, which could then be available for courts or tribunals in the future to prosecute these massive crimes. Continue reading

Human Rights Movement Must Come Together to Resist Trump’s Agenda

by David Tolbert*

Donald TrumpDonald Trump’s inaugural speech has fittingly been described, as “dystopian,” as “dark,” as “a declaration of war.” The new president made no call for unity, did not reach out to a soul not already in his camp — despite losing the popular vote by almost 3 million votes — nor uttered a word to bring together a fractured nation or address a world deeply nervous at his ascension to the most powerful of offices.

In the first few days as president, his actions mirrored his words. Trump has rushed headlong into creating further divisions and has begun an assault on human rights and basic decency — including a de facto ban on many Muslim refugees from entering the United States and the resurrection of CIA “black sites“ — and promises more to come.

The new president exalts torture, mocks the disabled, casts aspersions on those who defend human rights, appeals to racist sentiments through coded and not-so-coded language and denigrates women in both word and deed. He shows no regard for the Geneva Conventions or the painstaking work of generations of human rights activists, many of them American, to ensure that civilians are not abused in times of conflict and that the vulnerable are protected.

For good measure, he seems to demean virtually every restraint that protects the citizen from the state. His first call as president to a foreign leader was to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, who crushed the protests against army rule, devastated Egypt’s civil society with draconian laws targeting human rights defenders and turned Egypt’s legal institutions into “kangaroo courts.” A chilling signal indeed. Continue reading

As History Restarts, Five Strategies for International Human Rights Organisations

With liberalism facing its greatest test since the end of the Cold War, international human rights organisations need to adapt to survive.

By Rupert Abbott, Daniel Eyre, Jenna Holliday and Ou Virak*

berlin-wall

A fragment of the Berlin Wall

With wars raging across the world, from Syria to Nigeria, the corresponding refugee crisis, shrinking space for civil society, and the rise of right-wing populism, 2016 was annus horribilis for human rights.

Behind this deteriorating situation are a number of trends, which suggest not only that worse may be yet to come but also amount to an existential crisis for the international human rights movement.

Human rights international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) recognise that new challenges call for new responses. We join others in identifying strategies that will be crucial to defending rights in a changing world.

The end of history

The fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 signaled the end of the Cold War and ushered in an era of optimism for liberal democracy, with respect for human rights – particularly civil and political rights – as one of its cornerstones.

That year, Francis Fukuyama asked in his seminal essay whether the world was at the “End of History?”

With the defeat of fascism in the middle of the 20th century, and the collapse of communism towards its end, Fukuyama described the “unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism … the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy …”

The years that followed were a heyday for liberal internationalism, with the foreign policies of liberal democracies – led by the US – guided by the aim of enlarging the “community of market democracies”, and, with this, their dominance. Continue reading

Letpadaung, Daw Khin Win and Impunity

Sagaing Region ministers have been meeting opponents of the Letpadaung copper mine to discuss a list of grievances, including lingering questions about the death of a protester.

By Vani Sathisan*

Letpadaung Copper Mine

The Letpadaung Copper Mine

“Here is a real bullet, beside a shotgun shell with rubber pellets inside, that were used on the day Daw Khin Win was killed. I kept them as evidence. Why were real bullets used to disperse a crowd that was peacefully protesting?”

A relative of Khin Win put the question to representatives of the International Commission of Jurists during a recent visit to Monywa to monitor the human rights impact of the nearby Letpadaung copper mine.

The bullet displayed by the villager was used in the fatal shooting on December 22, 2014, of Khin Win, a landowner, during a protest against the expansion of the mine. Two other villagers were hurt in the same protest over the seizure of land in 35 nearby villages.

There remains a lack of transparency about whether there has been any credible investigation of villagers’ claims that workers from Wanbao joined forces with police that day to violently disperse the protestors.

Wanbao – a subsidiary of China’s state-owned weapons maker Norinco, which runs the mine in a joint venture with the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited – restarted production in May. In April, Wanbao released a slick corporate social accountability video called “A New Dawn” to show it had a “social licence” to operate.

However, the ICJ’s discussions with affected communities, including meetings at the Sagaing regional hluttaw and the General Administration Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs, found different sentiments in villages near the project. Grievances in the communities included land grabs, loss of livelihoods and environmental damage. Continue reading

Immunities and International Crimes – The Al-Bashir Conundrum

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during the 25th AU Summit in South Africa ©KIM LUDBROOK / EPA

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir

On 13 October 2016, Professor Guénaël Mettraux and Professor John Dugard filed an amicus curiae brief before the Constitutional Court of South Africa In the matter between the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional  Development and the Southern African Litigation Center (“President Al-Bashir case”).

The proceeding are critically important to resolving the tension between a State’s obligation to respect the sovereign immunities of foreign state officials (including heads of states) and that State’s obligation to cooperate with the ICC.

In resolving this tension, Profs Mettraux and Dugard have laid down a series of important principles and effectively mapped a way out of the problem:

1. Immunities and international crimes – A brief historical overview

i. Traditional international law used to grant absolute immunity to heads of state in respect of all acts, commercial and criminal.

ii. Over time, international law started to carve out a number of exceptions to that general and absolutist principle (in particular in respect of commercial acts). This includes an exception to immunities as a defence and/or bar to jurisdiction when faced with international crimes charges (see next).

2. A customary international law exclusion of immunities as a defence and jurisdictional bar to international crimes prosecution

iii. Since at least the end of the Second World War and criminal prosecutions pertaining to that conflict, customary international law excludes the possibility for a Head of State (and other State officials) to rely on his immunity as a defence or as an objection to the jurisdiction of a court before which he appears on charges of international crimes (war crimes; crimes against humanity; or genocide).

iv. This is so whether the jurisdiction seeking to try him is a domestic or an international one. The loss of immunity in such a case is determined, not by the – national or international – character of the tribunal trying such a defendant, but by the international character of the underlying offence with which he is charged.

v. In the context of that exclusionary rule, none of the relevant instruments or relevant incidents of state practice draw a distinction between official and private acts of state officials. All conduct amounting to an international crime are encapsulated into the general exclusionary rule. Nor do these draw a distinction between sitting and former state officials. The exclusion of immunities as a defence and jurisdictional bar is absolute in its effect and pertains to any individual.

vi. Article 27 of the Statute of the ICC recognizes and gives effect to that general principle in the context of proceedings before the ICC. As a jurisdictional provision (dealing with one aspect of the Court’s jurisdiction ratione personae), Article 27 only deals with the effect (or, rather, the absence of effect) of an official position and related immunities on the jurisdiction of the Court itself. It does not regulate, nor purports to regulate, the effect of these immunities on the jurisdiction of any other court. Continue reading

Iraqi Civilians v. Ministry of Defence: Denial of Justice in Cases Involving International Torts

UK Soldiers Iraqby Rishi Gulati and Matthew Nelson*

The decision of the United Kingdom Supreme Court in Iraqi Civilians v. Ministry of Defence (No. 2) [2016] UKSC 25 (“Iraqi Civilians”) demonstrates how public and private international law concepts interact and affect the rights of individuals allegedly subjected to grave breaches of rights to access a remedy before courts of law.

 Iraqi Civilians: Background

The claimants, hundreds of Iraqi civilians represented by 14 lead claimants, brought claims under the Human Rights Act 1998 and in tort against the UK Ministry of Defence, for damages arising out of alleged unlawful detention and/or physical maltreatment by British soldiers between 2003 to 2008 in Iraq. After the cessation of the major combat operations in May 2003, the UK became an occupying power and began exercising the powers of the Iraqi Government on a temporary basis.

The Supreme Court’s brief decision, delivered by Justice Sumption, concerned the application of limitations to the claimants’ suits that operated as a matter of Iraqi law. Accepting, as the parties did, that Iraqi law applied in relation to questions of the Ministry’s liability in tort, the claimants were, by operation of Article 232 of the Civil Code of Iraq (the “Civil Code”), barred from commencing their applications (though their rights were not extinguished) by virtue of the operation of limitation periods to claims of this kind. Consequently, the claimants sought to invoke an order of the Coalition authorities, Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17 (the “Order”), that operated to suspend the taking of proceedings in Iraqi courts against the UK Government, such that it conferred state immunity on the UK Government from legal process in Iraqi courts. It is this order, the claimants’ argued, that had the effect of suspending the limitation periods, as envisaged in Article 435 of the Civil Code. Continue reading