by Max du Plessis
Advocate of the High Court, Durban and Sandton; Associate Tenant, Doughty Street Chambers, London; Associate Professor, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Executive Director, Southern Africa Litigation Centre
African Heads of State at the Malabo Summit last June
On June 2014, African Heads of State and Governments meeting in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, adopted a Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (the ACJHPR Amendment). The ACJHPR Amendment revises the (not yet in force) Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (ACJHR Protocol) – which was adopted in 2008 to merge the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights with the proposed African Court of Justice. The aim of the 2014 ACJHPR Amendment is to grant the resultant Court ‘International Criminal Law’ jurisdiction, adding to the ‘Human Rights’ jurisdiction it presently exercises and the ‘General International Law’ jurisdiction it is expected to exercise when the 2008 ACJHR Protocol comes into effect (whenever that may be). To make matters worse (or better), the ACJHPR Amendment also introduces a change in nomenclature: the new amended, revised African Court will be called the ‘African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples Rights’ (the ACJHPR) (article 8, ACJHPR Amendment).
To give effect to its aims, the 2014 ACJHPR Amendment contains a number of revisions to both the 2008 ACJHR Protocol and the Statute of the Court attached thereto. However, if matters were not already confusing and time-warped, the 2014 ACJHPR Amendment is itself a revised version of an earlier draft, approved by African Ministers of Justice and Attorney General and recommended to the AU Assembly in May 2012 (the ‘2012 Draft Amendment’). The 2012 Draft Amendment was the subject of considerable criticism, including a Comment in this journal by the author (du Plessis, ‘A new regional International Criminal Court for Africa?’, 2 SACJ (2012) 286). In short, general concerns were raised regarding the rushed drafting process and the lack of consultation, and specific concerns were raised as to difficulties surrounding jurisdiction, the definition of crimes, immunities, institutional design and the practicality of administration and enforcement of an expanded jurisdiction, amongst others. Continue reading
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (c) AP
Yesterday, the defence team for Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta filed a request before a Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to excuse the Kenyan President from attending in person a Status Conference scheduled for 8 October 2014. In the “urgent request”, lawyers for Kenyatta explain that his position as President of the East African Community requires him to chair a regional summit in Kampala, Uganda on the day in question. The meeting is to address economic development and regional security issues.
The request was filed pursuant to Rule 134 quater of the ICC’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence, which states that an accused subject to a summons to appear (as President Kenyatta is) may request excusal from attendance at trial when mandated “to fulfil extraordinary public duties.” The Trial Chamber shall grant the request when it considers excusal to be in the interests of justice and provided that the rights of the accused are fully ensured.
The rule is a recent amendment to the Rules of Procedure, which was adopted by the Assembly of States Parties in November 2013 following a request by the African Union.
President Kenyatta is charged with crimes against humanity perpetrated during the post-electoral violence in 2007. The start date of his trial has been postponed on numerous occasions amidst Prosecution complaints that the Kenyan Government has failed to disclose requested documents.
Yesterday, Chatham House in conjunction with Doughty Street Chambers hosted a lecture on “The ICC and Libya: Complementarity in Conflict”. The featured speakers were Professor Kevin Jon Heller from the School of Oriental and African Studies, Melinda Taylor, defence counsel and former head of the Office of Public Counsel for the Defence at the ICC, and Carla Ferstman, Director at REDRESS.
The discussion centred around the admissibility decisions in the cases of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah al-Senussi before the ICC. In July 2014, the Appeals Chamber held that the case against al-Senussi was inadmissible and that the Libyan authorities were willing and able to try him. Earlier, in May 2014, the Appeals Chamber reached the opposite decision in the case of Gaddafi holding that the case was admissible and ordering his transfer from detention in Zintan to the ICC. Continue reading
by Max du Plessis*
The International Criminal Court
Complementarity is certainly posited as a driving feature of the ICC regime. The ICC is expected to act in what is described as a ‘complementary’ relationship with domestic states that are party to the Rome Statute. The Preamble to the Rome Statute says that the ICC’s jurisdiction will be complementary to that of national jurisdictions, and article 17 of the Statute embodies the complementarity principle. At the heart of this principle is the ability to prosecute international criminals in one’s national courts, on behalf of the international community, or to have in place mechanisms to arrest and surrender to the ICC persons that the court seeks to prosecute and who happen to be in one’s jurisdiction.
Linked to the principle of complementarity is the practice of universal jurisdiction. The ICC does not exercise universal jurisdiction. But states do, and it is here that the real potential lies for states to act as impunity gap fillers – acting where the ICC is unable or unwilling to do so.
Various developments in Africa suggest a broader understanding of complementarity that is unfolding in practice and which is worthy of further exploration. This broader understanding in certain respects falls within the notion of ‘positive complementarity’, or perhaps better phrased, ‘proactive complementarity’ – a term meaning that the ICC and states should actively encourage genuine national proceedings where possible, and that national and international networks should be relied upon as part of a system of international cooperation. Continue reading
Date: Wednesday 17 September 2014, 7pm.
Venue: T.M.C. Asser Instituut, R.J. Schimmelpennincklaan 20-22, The Hague, Netherlands.
Speaker: Darryl Robinson, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Queen’s University, Canada.
SCL Lectures are public and free of charge. Registration is not necessary, seats are available on a first-come-first-served basis.
For more information, click here.
The International Criminal Court
In a recent op-ed, Tiina Intelman, President of the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court (ICC), wrote about the upcoming elections of new ICC judges.
After explaining that the States will go through a complex voting process to choose the most qualified candidates, Intelman highlights the recent establishment of an Advisory Committee designed to assist the States in selecting the best candidates possible and thus raising even more the level of competence of the ICC judges. The Committee will be meeting at the beginning of December in New York in order to interview the candidates and produce a report which will be at the States’ disposal.
The elections are scheduled for the thirteenth session of the Assembly of State Parties, to be held in New York from 8-17 December 2014. The judges will be elected for a period of 9 years.
Uhuru Kenyatta at the ICC
Today, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested that the trial against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta be adjourned indefinitely.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she still did not have enough evidence to proceed with the trial, which was due to resume on 7 October.
She argued that the case should be delayed until the Kenyan Government complies in full with outstanding ICC cooperation requests.
“Under the circumstances, it would be inappropriate for the Prosecution to withdraw the charges against Mr Kenyatta before the Government of Kenya complies with the Revised Request. […] “In the five months since the Prosecution submitted its 8 April 2014 Revised Request, the Government of Kenya has produced a total of 73 pages of documentation. Some are not responsive to the Revised Request; even the responsive material is a fraction of the information sought”, she says.
Kenyatta is charged as an “indirect co-perpetrator” for crimes including murder, rape and persecution allegedly committed by others during violence that left more than 1,000 people dead after his country’s 2007 elections. He denies the allegations.
Kenyatta’s lawyers have repeatedly said the whole case should be dropped because of a lack of evidence.
by David Tolbert*
Gaza, August 2014
The world has plunged into a period of brutality, with impunity for the perpetrators of violence. Syria is suffering untold civilian casualties as a divided United Nations Security Council sits on the sidelines. Gaza was pummeled to dust yet again with the world watching on. Iraq is in flames, with no end in sight. Atrocities are mounting in South Sudan and the Central African Republic, which are also being swept by an epidemic of sexual violence. Even Europe is not immune: a civilian aircraft was shot down over a conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, and officials were prevented from investigating.
Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and more than a decade after the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC), shockingly little is being done to stop these abuses, and the prospects of the victims ever getting justice, let alone bringing the perpetrators to account, seem ever more remote.
For many years, the world seemed to be progressing toward greater recognition of human rights and demands for justice. As democracies emerged in Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe in the 1980s and 1990s, these issues assumed increasing importance. Although wars, conflicts, and atrocities continued, the global powers tried, and occasionally managed – albeit chaotically and usually late – to stop the killing. Continue reading
by Arnold Tsunga and Wayne Jordash QC
African Union Summit, July 2014
There is a general notion that the law is like a spider’s web. It only catches the weak.
The decision adopted by the AU heads in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, to grant immunity from prosecution for serious human rights violations to heads of state and senior government officials at the African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples Rights only serves to reinforce this perception.
Heads who faced justice
Few African heads of state have been tried for serious human rights violations of their own people. Those that come to mind are Charles Taylor (Liberia) and Hosni Mubarak (Egypt). Charles Taylor was tried by a hybrid tribunal set up under the auspices of the UN in Sierra Leone (sitting in The Hague, a city that has become the seat of international justice). After being overthrown in a revolution, Mubarak was tried by domestic courts in what some view as flawed victor’s justice. The AU was not involved in either of these proceedings.
Others await or are going through trial. These are Laurent Gbagbo (Cote D’Ivoire), Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir (Sudan), Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto (Kenya) at the ICC, and Hissène Habré (Chad) at an AU sponsored tribunal in Senegal. The Hissène Habré case has been awaiting trial since shortly after the millennium. Legitimate concerns have been raised about the willingness of the AU leaders to see Hissène Habré face justice and the completion of the trial. Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir has been largely protected by the AU heads that have refused to cooperate with the ICC to effect his warrant of arrest. Continue reading
The International Criminal Court
Following Israel’s offensive in Gaza, Amnesty International is urging the UN Security Council, the Palestinian Authority and Israel to do everything within their power to enable the International Criminal Court (ICC) to bring to justice those responsible for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the current and past Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.
“An International Criminal Court investigation is crucial to end the pervasive culture of impunity. All sides must push for the Court to investigate such crimes in order to halt the vicious cycle of violations and injustice once and for all”, says Amnesty.
Amnesty asks the Security Council to take immediate steps to refer the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to the Prosecutor of the ICC. For Amnesty, “the UN Security Council must not stand by yet again and bear witness to mounting atrocities. It must seize this moment to act decisively for justice.”
Amnesty International is also calling on both the Palestinian and Israeli authorities to support a Security Council referral, and take other measures that would allow the ICC to step in and ensure their co-operation with the Court. Continue reading