Africa: Leaders Must Not Grant Themselves Immunity for Crimes Against Humanity

Africa: Leaders Must Not Grant Themselves Immunity for Crimes Against Humanity

Catholic Information Service for Africa (Nairobi) — Proposals to grant sitting African leaders immunity from prosecution for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity will completely undermine the integrity of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, even before it becomes operational, Amnesty International said.

In an open letter Amnesty International called on African Union (AU) heads of state and government meeting in Equatorial Guinea this week not to adopt a proposed amendment which would grant immunity from prosecution to sitting government leaders and senior officials in the African Court of Justice and Human Rights.

“After the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the world committed itself to ensuring that such an atrocity could never happen again. This commitment rings hollow in the face of efforts to shield from prosecution senior African politicians who are and may be responsible for serious atrocities including mass murder, torture, rape, or the displacement of entire communities,” said Netsanet Belay Amnesty International’s Africa Director.

“If this amendment is adopted it will also call into question the African Union’s commitment to its declared goal of ensuring justice for victims of serious crimes under international law.”

The Draft Protocol on Amendments to the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights extends the Court’s jurisdiction over crimes under international law. The proposed amendment to the Draft Protocol will preclude the prosecution before the Court of a sitting head of state or government or other senior official, suspected of committing acts of genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Irrespective of the decision on this by the AU, the International Criminal Court (ICC) will retain the right to investigate serving African heads of state and government.

“It is vital that those responsible for atrocities must face justice, irrespective of their official positions. The adoption of this amendment would be a tremendous backward step in the long battle for accountability and human rights on the continent,” said Netsanet Belay.

“How African leaders vote on this crucial amendment at the AU summit this week will provide a litmus test of leadership for each and every African government.”

Categories: Africa

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