At a summit of the African Union held last Friday in Equatorial Guinea, African leaders present voted in favour of an amendment that would grant them and “senior officials” immunity from prosecution for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide before the African Court of Justice and Human Rights.
The text of the amendment, which was passed was as follows:
“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.”
It is unclear who will be entitled to immunity as a “senior state official.” Amnesty International have called the move
“a step backwards in the fight against impunity and a betrayal of the victims who suffered serious human rights abuses.”
Ahead of the meeting on Friday, 42 African and international civil society rights groups objected to the proposed amendment noting in an open letter that the resulting impunity violates international and domestic laws as well as the constitution of the African Union.
The vote was part of a larger discussion on the Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights. The African Court of Justice and Human Rights is the result of the decision of the African Union to amalgamate the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Court of Justice of the African Union.