Continental court vital僕awyers
Kigali-based lawyers have welcomed the bid to establish a court that will try African cases, saying the continent needed such a court to deal with African cases instead of transferring them to the International Criminal Court in Hague.
If created, the Court will have three sections; one, dealing with general matters, the second dealing with human rights issues and the third dealing with criminal matters.
It will be created through the merger of the African Court of Justice and the African Court for Human and People’s Rights.
The president of Kigali Bar Association, Athanase Rutabingwa said that it is imperative that the court is expeditiously established but cautioned that it should be facilitated with all the requirements to operate comprehensively.
“The court is important and we need to solve the African problems instead of going to ICC; what is needed is to fully equip it with all the requirements to manage serve the continent,” he said.
Jean Claude Kabera, an independent lawyer in Kigali, observed that the continent possesses all the capacities to locally try the cases that might come up, describing taking African cases to the Hague as undermining the dignity of Africans.
“We are independent, why don’t we handle our issues as a continent? We know our problems and we have what it takes to resolve them instead of dragging our cases to western countries,” he said.
He criticised the operation of the Hague based court saying, “It’s like ICC was established to monitor the situation in Africa.”
Zainabu Kayitesi, the vice president of the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights, also highlighted the significance of such an institution, but said its establishment was still a long way to go, since AU member countries have not signed the protocol to establish it.
“It is true and inevitable that Africans should be judged on African level but countries have not yet signed the protocol…at least fifteen members need to ratify before the court is operationalised,” she said.
Out of 54 African countries, only 26 have ratified the Protocol on the creation of the Court and only five of them have made the Special Declaration allowing individuals and NGOs to file cases at the Court.
Rwanda’s position on the development was not clear by press time, as Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama could not be obtained on phone, but Rwandan officials have previously backed calls for Africa setting up mechanisms to settle political and judicial disputes that internally arise.
Some of the cases that ICC has tried include the one of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who was sentenced to 50 years of in prison, and Thomas Lubanga who was sentenced to 14 years for war crimes in Congo.
Others that have been indicted by the court include four senior Kenyan politicians including the Deputy Prime Minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, who stand accused of inciting post electoral violence that led to the death of hundreds.
Previously, calls had been made that the Kenyans, popularly called the ‘Ocampo Four’ (after the former ICC Prosecutor Louis Moreno Ocampo), be tried by the East African Court of Justice, after modifying its mandate.