REPORT OF THE 2 DAY WORKSHOP ON BUILDING STRONG CIVIL SOCIETY VOICE AGAINST IMPUNITY IN AFRICA: ADVOCACY & COMMUNICATION STRATEGY. THEME: BUILDING STRONG CIVIL SOCIETY VOICE AGAINST IMPUNITY IN AFRICA: ADVOCACY & COMMUNICATION STRATEGY. DATE: JULY, 30 & 31 2019 VENUE: FANA HOTEL, ROUTES DES ALMADIES, DAKAR SENEGAL

LIST OF PARTICIPANTS

S/N NAME   COUNTRY ORGANISATION EMAIL PHONE NUMBER
1 Mamadou Bailo Bah Guinee Association des Familles Disparu Bailobah289@gmail.com +224 622-41-41-91
2 Edigah Kavulavu Kenya International Commission of Jurists (ICJ- Kenya) kavulavu.edigha@icj-kenya.org +254 720791579
3 Kito Marie Masimango RDC CN-CPI/RDC kitomasimango@gmail.com +243 811207461
4 Diahara Toure Mali CNAV   +223 75511663
5 Christiane Kandala RDC CODJA christianekandala@gmail.com +243 897557986
6 Chino Obiagwu Nigeria NCICC obiagwu@ledapnigeria.org +234 80636913264
7 Hannah Forster Gambia African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies edir@acdhrs.org csec@acdhrs.org +220 4462340 +220 7711391
8 Senghane Senghor Senegal RADDHO senghane@yahoo.fr 775111492
9 Cynthia C. Nahayo Burundi TRAUMACARE   +250 727433655
10 Oula Kpae Dominique Côte d’Ivoire COVICI Covici.victimes@gmail.com 07973497/45458484
11 Zendabila Bundya Daniel RDC FOCDP danizenda@gmail.com +243 894707052 +243 812520890
12 Iba Sarr Senegal RADDHO bassirou1@yahoo.fr +221 775383062
13 Ali Outtara Cote d’Ivoire CI CPI ouattaraali@yahoo.fr ouattaraalidh2015@gmail.com +225 07533080
14 Lidamon Herve Severin CAR AVED lidamonseverin@yahoo.fr +236 75793388 +236 72401050
15 Mama Koite Doumbia Mali ICC Trust Fund for Victims mama_koite@yahoo.fr +223 76203732
16 Sharon Nakandha   Open Society Initiative (OSI)/OSIWA snakandha@osiwa.org +221 776379738
17 Tawanda Hondora London World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP) hondora@wfm-igp.org +44 7723402154
18 Olanrewaju Suraju Nigeria HEDA Resource Center larryk371@yahoo.co.uk +234 8098044617
19 Gaye Sowe Gambia IHRDA gsowe@ihrda.org +220 7751207
20 Abubacarr Tambadou Gambia Ministry of Justice btambadou@yahoo.com  
21 Farida Nabourema Togo TCL faridabemba@gmail.com +221 775854727
22 Allan Ngari South Africa ISS angari@issafrica.org +27722582897
23 Femi Falana Nigeria CDHR Falanafemi15@gmail.com +234 80330040103
24 Flora Ezeihuaku Nigeria NCICC fezeihuaku@gmail.com +234 8039275547
25 Muhere Etam Alice Uganda Emerging Solutions Africa-Uganda etamalice@gmail.com +256 781448143
26 Robina Namusisi Uganda ICJ rnamusisi@iri.org +220 2644915
27 Sadikh Niass Senegal RADDHO sniass@yahoo.fr +221 776338713
28 Amadou Ndiaye Senegal Media    


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

There is increasing consensus, and deepening partnerships, among civil society leaders and activists across Africa, towards working together to strengthen the fight against impunity for human rights violations and international crimes. The key focus is to build capacity of African grassroots civil society movement, support and positively engage national and continental institution for justice and accountability, and sustain the gains already made in democratic pursuit across the continent.

This meeting was convened to bring together key activists in the continent across various countries, in order to further strengthen partnerships, draw up strategic agenda and articulate ways to support victims and victims’ communities across Africa. The meeting held for 2 days, attended by participants from 17 African countries. The deliberations of the first day centered on identifying the challenges of accountability for international crimes in the continent, and formulating practical solutions upon which civil society actors can work together to fight impunity. A strategy for effective communication among civil society organization was developed at the session. The second day focused on strategies to support victims and victims’ communities. The need to pay priority to victims redress was underlined by the sheer number of victims across African countries who have not received any remedy, justice or reparation. The participants articulated strategies to promote accountability and redress to victims in the continent.

At the end of the meeting, key decisions reached included (the full recommendations are contained in the last part of this report)

  1. CSOs commit to work together to fight impunity across the continent and to support one another. There is need to reach out to all stakeholders and actors across the entire continent
  2. Effective communication and strategic engagement among CSOs with one another and with national and continental entities are critical for successful partnership. Consequently, in addition to an already existing Charter of the network, the participants commit themselves to develop a Communication Strategy for internal and external communication, as well as strategic plan for engagement with the priority areas.
  3. Victims are to be given priority in the mission of the network of CSOs, in consequently, a thematic group of the network focusing on victims and victims redress was set up.
  4. CSOs commit to constructively engage with the African Union institutions in order to strengthen the future of international criminal justice in Africa and effectively tackle impunity for serious and massive violations of human rights and humanitarian laws, and international crimes. To this end, the CSOs agree to hold a sustained dialogue with the African Union on effective implementation of the Protocol to the African Charter on the Court of Justice and Human Rights (Malabo Protocol) in order to encourage African based institution for accountability, as complement to international and sub regional mechanisms.
  5. CSOs in Africa commit to engage with the African Union towards the full implementation of the proposed Victims Trust Fund of the African Union, in order to build resources and political commitment for redress to victims of international crimes in the continent.
  6. The participants agree on need to undertake regular civil society missions to areas where there have occurred serious and massive violations of human rights and humanitarian laws, in order to provide informed reports and tools for constructive engagement with the political leaders. To this end, the meeting proposed to undertake missions to Sudan and Burundi in coming months in order to assess and report on the situation of international crimes and victims, especially, the situation of human rights defenders.

The African Network on International Criminal Justice (ANICJ) was set up in January 2018. It arose from a meeting of national coalitions on the International Criminal Court and other networks working to promote accountability in Africa, convened by the Nigerian Coalition for the ICC and the Coalition for the International Criminal Court in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. It comprises of CSOs from 42 countries united with the common interest of building a strong civil society voice and partnerships across Africa in the fight against impunity using the mechanism of the International Criminal Court and other African regional, sub regional and international justice systems.

The workshop provided a platform for various stakeholders to contribute to building a strong civil society voice and developing communication strategies that will further strengthen the network in the realization of her goal especially in support to victims and victims’ communities in Africa.

SUMMARY OF PROCEEDINGS OF THE WORKSHOP

The workshop held for two days, the 30th and 31st July 2019. Participants arrived on the 29th July and departed on 1s August 2019. There were informal reception and other networking platforms during the meeting. Participants are grateful to CSOs colleagues in Senegal for the warm reception accorded them during the workshop.

DAY 1, 30TH JULY 2019 “BUILDING STRONG CIVIL SOCIETY VOICE AGAINST IMPUNITY

The workshop commenced at about 10:00am with an opening session chaired by the Honourable Attorney-General of the Republic of The Gambia, Hon Abubacarr Tambadou. The Keynote Speaker, who set the agenda for the meeting was Mr. Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria, who was also former President of the West Africa Bar Association (WABA). His keynote paper is an Annex to this report.

Also at the opening session, agenda-setting remarks were received from Mr. Ibar Sarr, representing the Secretary General of  RHADDH, Senegal, as well as, Mama Koite Doumbia, Présidente de la Plateforme des Femmes Leaders du Mali/Membre du Conseil du Fonds au Profit de Victimes/TFV CPI & Présidente du Réseau MUSONET. Remarks were also made by Dr Tawanda Hondora, Executive Director, World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP), comprising the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), and the International Coalition on the Responsibility to Protect.

Some of the highlights of the opening remarks include the emerging political commitment of the political society in African to constructively engage with the civil society in driving social and economic development in African. The Hon AG of the Gambia emphatically demonstrated how many current African governments are willing to support the realization of CSOs goals and objectives in the continent. The need to increase the voices of victims and their interests, especially women and children in conflict situations, were raised. The future African court of justice and human rights, stands to give hope to victims, and deserves the pursuit of African civil society.

The physical and material sufferings victims faced was equally addressed and it is our duty as a civil society network to work together to make sure these victims’ voices are heard and not be side-tracked by ethnicity and financial benefits. Also, the tension between the ICC and the African Union might be a barrier in the implementation of the ICC’s objective of fighting impunity for international crimes, including the ICC’s victims Trust Fund accessing victims and getting cooperation from African governments. The Network will work to increase governments’ commitment to victims and victims redress.

Some key questions were asked on the issue of victims;

  • What are the goals of CSOs?
  • How do we define these goals?
  • How are we going to make sure to realize these principles as goals?

Considering the fact that millions of dollars have been spent in the pursuit of the ICC’s goals and yet only a fraction of victims have received reparation, a good approach to these questions is to first of all, put in effort regionally (Africa) before looking towards the ICC. Secondly, the network needs to identify key goals, commit as individuals and have one voice that represents the policies of the ICC so we can get the government, organizations, companies and even the media to be on our side.

Furthermore, issues of international crimes in various African countries such as Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Mali, Togo, Kenya, Gambia, Nigeria etc require CSOs attention. Incidents of international crimes and issues of reparation have similar traits in many African countries, from atrocity crimes of rape, war crimes, genocide to the gaps in providing reparation for these victims.

The session ended before noon with a group photograph (Annex A).

The session on Building strong African civil society network and common voice: showcasing what exists and strategies for stronger united coordination commenced at noon with Mr. Ali Outtara, President of the Ivorian Coalition on the ICC chairing the session. . Speakers were Mrs. Hannah Forster, Executive Director, Africa Center for Democracy & Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) and Mr. Kito Masimango, Chair of the DRC Coalition for the ICC. The panels elaborated on effective strategies for CSOs to work together in Africa in the fights against impunity.

The work of CSOs as regards victims was reiterated and communication, governance and collaborative network structure were identified as key for the success of CSOs work. In order to strengthen the ANICJ, coordination is a valid point and as such, there is need for re-evaluation of;

  • What has to be done?
  • What has already been done?
  • What can still be done for improvement?

As a network, we must have the same vision and objectives for our work to be effective. Legitimacy and accountability was equally addressed in this session. Being ingrained with the legislature of countries the network is working to pave way for a better collaboration with the government. Also, internal democracy and accountability is a vital tool for the success of the network. It is important to carry all members along with constant feedback on on-going work. Collaboration with international bodies is also necessary in achieving our primary objectives. Finally, the network should develop a strategic plan and the training of stakeholders on the issues of international human rights was identified as an important task for the network.

The questions and comments raised a number of issues, including

  • Bringing victims association on board and setting up funds at national levels for victims redress;
  • The need to undertake strong advocacy between civil society organizations and African governments and African Union  institutions;
  • Creating a platform for victims to express themselves;
  • Challenges as regards victims funds due to the red tape in the court;
  • Incomplete and appropriate response to victims and need to raise the voices of victims through a victims group within the ANICJ;
  • Raising funds for the network in order to carry out its mission;

Victims’ empowerment is the first step and it can be achieved by helping them write report and train CSOs working with victims on how to document victims testimonies and properly report them. Also, victims should be informed with all they need to know so they can push their agenda forward. Advocacy should be strategic and systematic for fruitful results. Knowing which partner will work better with our objectives and identify means of working with difficult partners. Concerning writing a good grant application, there were suggestions on training of organizations to write proper and clear grant proposal.

Another issue was the various victims’ network and the problems that lie therein. Multiplication of victims’ organization will reduce efficiency of the network’s objective. Instead, a thematic group should be set up focusing on different aspects of CSOs’ works such as advocacy, human rights education, , etc. There was a suggestion of setting up thematic groups within the network on diverse issues including victims’ issues.

The session was concluded at 2:30pm

The third session on Strengthening communication strategies – overcoming barriers to civil society cooperation in Africa commenced after lunch with Dr. Towanda Hondora, Executive Director, World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP) chairing.. The speakers were Allan Ngari of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and Olanrewaju Suraju, Executive Director of HEDA Resource Center.

The importance of communication as part of CSOs’ strategies was emphasized in this session. Members should be pro-active in passing messages across to the world and effectively undertake strategic advocacy communication. Also, the messages communicated should be the same within CSOs in the network to maintain consistency. . Good relationship with the media was elaborated, and use of short messages and press releases should be concise and not bogus so that it will be easy to read and pass across. As regards passing our message across, identifying the appropriate social media tool to use is important.

Key issues such as knowing what to communicate, identifying appropriate mediums to pass these messages in order to reach the target audience, develop afro centric approach as regards international mechanisms, seeing Africans as one when relating our concerns including those in Diaspora, identifying perpetrators as well as those enabling perpetrators, reorientation of CSOs activists, seek alternative ways to get funds, working with our constituencies and engage in capacity building were also highlighted.

The need to define the network’s goal seeing as there are many organizations out there was also discussed. Identifying regional bodies that should be addressed in the actualization of our goals of eradicating impunity for perpetrators of international crimes is very vital.

Other suggestions and comments on developing a website specifically for passing our message across were noted as well as setting up a thematic group on media or committee of journalists to better convey key messages. For the growth of the network, communication should be constant, active and permanent.

There were calls for volunteers to assist in developing communication strategies before the end of the 2-day meeting. Members were advised to build individual capacities on the use of communication tools and be on their feet in responding to messages for effective communication

The session ended at 5:30pm and a reception cocktail followed at 7:30pm.

DAY 2, 31ST JULY 2019 “BUILDING AFRICAN CIVIL SOCIETY VOICE AGAINST IMPUNITY IN AFRICA: ADVOCACY AND COMMUNICATION STRATEGY”

Day 2 started with a recap of the previous day’s activities by the rapporteur at exactly 9:15am. On the heels of the recap session were comments and observations from the report..

Erudite lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN), in his keynote speech on Accountability for atrocity crimes in Africa: tasking the African civil society movement gave a brief history of the Rome Statute of the ICC and atrocity crimes that have rocked the African continent and the world at large. The pursuit of international criminal justice in Africa through the International Criminal Court (ICC) platform has not been without hitches. He spoke about the growing rift between the African Union (AU), as a continental body, and the ICC owing to the AU’s perception that the ICC is pursuing selective justice and the AU’s misgivings about the ICC’s indictment /trial of some sitting heads of states in Africa.

The issue of selective justice brought about the decision of some African countries to contemplate withdrawal from the ICC. Although the ICC has failed to look into international crimes committed by powerful countries in places like Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria should not be a justification for preventing the arrest and trial of other perpetrators of international crimes. He further emphasized that strengthening and improving domestic criminal justice systems and the regional and sub-regional human rights courts and mechanisms by African leaders will be the best means to address accountability and combat impunity across the continent. The keynote also addressed the amendment of the Malabo protocol to remove the immunity clause to sitting head of states and senior government officials, which is a major setback in implementing the Protocol. Also, the office of the prosecutor of the ICC needs to open an investigation on crimes committed in the regime of the former President of The Gambia, Yahya  Jammeh.

The AU should stop engaging in confrontation with the ICC and instead show genuine commitment to prosecute those accused of atrocity crimes within member states’ domestic courts, develop the capacity to prosecute crimes under international law within national courts, and improve access to justice for victims nationally and regionally. In conclusion, he stressed the need to remind the representatives of the NGOs present at the meeting that the people of Africa were united in the struggle against colonialism, apartheid and military dictatorship and succeeded and in the same manner, the fight against impunity can be won by actual victims of political repression and economic exploitation and not by NGOs alone. He challenged the Network to link up with progressive political parties, trade unions, student unions and other youth bodies as well as women groups in the struggle against impunity in Africa.

At the end of the keynote speech, it was opined that the prosecutor should recuse herself from the Jammeh’s case and get someone else to work in her stead seeing as she is too involved in the situation. The way forward with the issue of Morocco and the Republic Arab Sahara was also discussed and participants agree on the need to constructively engage with the African Union and African governments to improve on the Protocol and see to its full implementation.

Participants noted the recent move within the European Union on travel sanctions against perpetrators of international crimes and massive human rights violations including public corruption, and suggested the network work with the European Union in encouraging such travel restrictions. CSOs  in Africa should work together to expose the corruption of these leaders so as to push forward with the visa ban and with this, African leaders will have no option than to fix their individual countries. CSOs were also advised to take up problems of members in our individual countries, share information, build strong networks and linkages across countries and support one another so as to maintain a strong civil society movement in the continent. A violation of rights in one country should be of concern to CSOs in other parts of Africa, and this should be the focus and priority of the network.

The 5th session on Legal, political, economic, social and cultural frameworks for victims support, redress and accountability in Africacommenced after lunch with Sharon Nakandha, Open Society Initiative (OSI) leading the session and making the key presentation.

She led an interactive session in which she discussed the international and African institutions/mechanisms for accountability, and compared the procedure and effectiveness mechanism. The specific mechanisms within the African Union and sub-regional systems were also highlighted, with emphasis on practical ways of engaging with each of the mechanisms. Despite some challenges, participants agree that the African mechanisms should be more strongly engaged with by CSOs, which has not been the case before now. CSOs should be blamed for not engaging with the African mechanisms and institution. This is the only way to ensure their effectiveness. It was emphasized that it is up to us as Africans to strengthen our system and build our jurisprudence as opposed to relying mainly on international mechanisms such as the United Nations and other international bodies to solve our problems. In line with the conversation, it was stated that African mechanisms have the best and most effective written policies /laws such as;

  • The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and its Protocols including the Protocol on Women, Protocol on the African Court, etc
  • The Malabo Protocol of 2014 that seeks to establish a criminal jurisdiction within the African Court on Human and People’s Rights: she advised members to take advantage of other benefits of this protocol irrespective of the immunity clause.
  •  Other mechanisms of the African Union were highlighted including the policy framework for transitional justice, the peace and security council, Panel of the Wise, AU special envoys, etc

The session on Participation of victims in justice and redress processes: issues, challenges and tasks of the civil societycommenced at 4:00pm with Ali Outtara, Ivoirian coalition for the ICC chairing the session and the speaker was Allan Ngari, Institute for Security Studies.

The session welcomed discussions on primary obligation of states to provide reparation and also, the development of a framework for victims’ reparation within the African continental system, and also at national levels. CSOs will commit to works towards such goals.

A few proposals were made in effectively engaging with the government institutions and mechanisms, including

  • Strengthening the civil society movement in Africa to enable them demand for accountability at national level as well as at continental level.
  • Broadening the scope and reach of this civil society network to embrace other key players in the continent
  • Using litigation at the African court and African commission on Human and People Rights. There are a number of violations in some countries such as Mali, Central African Republic, DRC, Nigeria, Gambia, etc for which appropriate judicial/legal action should be taken to seek redress for victims. In this light, the network should work with progressive lawyers and bar associations across Africa, and educate lawyers on these mechanisms.

Concluding session

The workshop was rounded up with the concluding session in which the summary of key proposals were highlighted. Moderated by the coordinator of the network, Mr. Chino Obiagwu SAN, participants agree to:

Finalize on the draft communication strategy which was developed by a volunteer, Mr. Dominique, to whom participants expressed great gratitude. Participants were asked to review and make input to the draft so the final copy will be circulated along with the workshop report. Volunteers were also requested for translation of the draft. It was pointed out that it takes a lot of resources to translate documents and this is why there are sometimes delays in circulating reports and information across the network.

The need for effective internal and external communication by the network was emphasized. There is need for wider consultation using the focal points for each region.

The participants agree to set up thematic groups within the network so that those working on specific areas can related and collaboration. In this light, the victims’ thematic group was agreed to be set up within the network.

A planned high level conference with the African Union on the future of International Criminal Justice in African was discussed, and the network is encouraged to go ahead with the plan and to make the discussion on workability of the Malabo Protocol as part of the session. Already, the governments of Nigeria and Senegal have indicated interest at the advocacy visits in October 2018 of the countries’ mission in Addis Ababa to support the network on this.

There is need for the network to undertake country-specific missions and produce reports that will authoritatively inform about the situations of human rights from the African CSOs perspective. The Kenya Section of the International Commission of Jurist informed the participants that it is planning to hold missions to Sudan and welcome the involvement and partnership with the network. It was also discussed that the Burundian government had invited the network to undertake a fact-finding mission to Burundi, but the network has not been able to do so because of lack of funds and members have not agreed to accept the funding offer by the Burundian government. Participants suggested that resources should be mobilized so the network will undertake missions to countries where there are violations or where human rights defenders are under threat, so as to report on them, such as in Togo, South Sudan, Sudan, Western Sahara, etc.

The need to engage with the African Union on the Trust Fund for victims set up in the heels of the judgment of the AU extra ordinary chambers on Chad, in which 30 million US dollars was awarded as reparation to victims of Hussein Habre. The funds have not been raised into this victims trust fund and the network can work with the AU to actualize this fund.

  • As a network, we must set a goal and work towards it, develop strategic plan that speak on key goals and objectives, using the African mechanisms and also the Malabo protocol and then develop activities for this purpose.
  • Map key stakeholder to engage like trade union, politicians, African institutions are really important to our work
  • Getting more civil society partners on board of the network and expand civil society engagement with governments.
  • Engage more effectively with the African Union mechanisms including the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, participate and engage in AU organs including the Assembly of heads of state and government, council of ministers meetings, etc.

The event came to a successful end at 6:30pm

The network expressed gratitude to the World Federalist Movement – Institute of Global Policy, the host of the Coalition for the ICC, for support to the network and for the workshop, as well as the European Commission that provided the funding to WFM-IGP and Nigerian Coalition for the ICC for the workshop.

Annexure

  1. Concept Note/Background paper of the Workshop
  2. Agenda/program of workshop
  3. Group photograph of participants
  4. Keynote address by Mr. Femi Falana SAN


CONCEPT NOTE

The meeting is convened by the African Network on International Criminal Justice (ANICJ) to bring together key victims’ networks, civil society leaders and advocates of international justice in Africa to elaborate common strategies for strengthening African civil society movement for accountability and redress to victims of atrocity crimes in Africa.

The first day (30 July) will focus on broadening the civil society partnerships and networking across Africa and articulating inclusive strategies for effective advocacy and communication, while the second day (31 July) will discuss the plights of victims of massive human rights violations and atrocity crimes in Africa, and how civil society organizations and advocates can work together to reduce impunity and engage governments and African institutions for effective redress to victims and prosecution of perpetrators.

  1. RATIONALE

Across the continent, there are considerable national civil society voices that promote human rights, accountability and support to victims. At the same time, there are increasing shrinking space for civil society in many parts of Africa.

It is therefore imperative that national civil society actors, including NGOs, journalists, academia, victims’ networks etc in Africa must work together in broad,

strategic, united and coordinated ways that will mutually support national efforts and engage African political leadership at continental and national levels.

The plight of victims in Africa and the failing democratic institutions in many parts of the continent, require that civil society actors must unite across the countries and sub-regions of the continent, despite linguistic and geo-political diversities.

  • BACKGROUND

Since the emergence of nationalist movements of the 18th and 19th centuries across Africa, generations of pro-people movements have continued to fight for the liberation and prosperity of the continent and its people. First, against foreign colonialists, then against neo-colonial dictators, war mongers, and now, against anti-democratic forces emerging across Africa.

Despite progress made in many nations and at continental level to deepen African democracy and reduce conflicts in the continent, anti-democratic forces in Africa have continued to undermine laudable efforts of the African Union, the civil society actors and their progressive allies.

Since the 1960s, the civil society in Africa remained under-represented voice in continental governance, due mainly to the history of exclusion of non-state actors in the running of post-independence governmental affairs at national and continental levels. Consequently, the sections of African society best represented by the civil society, such as victims of human rights violations, internally displaced persons and civilian casualties of internal conflicts, remain unheard and neglected. As a result, the rates of impunity, which is the rate at which those who commit violations are held unaccountable, remain very high in most parts of the continent.

The emerging bodies of international criminal justice at international and regional levels aim to respond to the increasing rates of impunity across the world, including in the African continent. Most of the international and regional justice mechanisms are results of global civil society-driven movements, cumulated in the establishment of the permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague. Similar inter-governmental institutions at the African regional level such as the African Commission and Human and Peoples Rights and the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, etc, have raised the standards for justice and accountability in the world. The civil society actors in Africa have the responsibility to increase the observance of these standards, and to demand accountability where there are violations. The civil society in the continent can be more effective working together and supporting one another across the region.

  • Fighting impunity in Africa – a task that called for CSOs coordination

International Criminal Law exists for two purposes: to end impunity by prosecuting the perpetrators of the world’s most heinous crimes and to bring justice and redress to the victims and their families. The position of African victims as regards redress is a saddening situation. Africa’s continental governance systems have identified accountability and redress to victims of crime as important components of their core mandates. Consequently, justice and accountability have been identified as being at the heart of continental peace, security and prosperity.

The roles of the civil society within Africa in driving the movement for justice and accountability is a task that can be achieved through coordinated, united, and strategic work of the civil society actors. Like the African governments, the civil society organizations and activists in the continent require a common voice, support for one another and coordination of their efforts at national and continental levels.

This is the purpose of the forthcoming meeting: namely to mobilize critical civil society voices across Africa to drive a coordinated, united African civil society voice and actions. At the same time, the meeting will discuss the plight of victims of atrocity crimes in the continent and how to build bottom-up networks of victims and support for victims’ communities in order to motivate proper accountability for atrocity crimes in Africa.

  • Expectation of the  meeting

It is expected that the meeting will articulate ways and strategies to strengthen broad civil society movement in the continent, and to identify key drivers in the sub-regions, so as to build an inclusive and coordinated African civil society responses against atrocity crimes in the continent.

AGENDA

Day 1 – 30 July 2019 Expected outputs
10.00am-11.30am Introductions and opening remarks Chair: Hon Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, Attorney General of the Gambia Special Guest: H.E. Sidiki Kaba, former President of ASP of the ICC Remarks by: Mama Koite Doumbia, Présidente de la Plateforme des Femmes Leaders du Mali/Membre du Conseil du Fonds au Profit de Victimes/TFV CPI & Présidente du Réseau MUSONETDr Tawanda Hondoro, Executive Director, World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP) Keynote address: Mr. Femi Falana SAN Theme: Accountability for atrocity crimes in Africa: tasking the African civil society movement Questions and discussions     Set the agenda for advocacy and network strategies
11.30-12.00 Break  
12.00 – 13.30 Chair: Ali Ouattara, Ivorian Coalition on the ICC. Building strong African civil society network and common voice: showcasing what exists & strategies for stronger united coordination. Hannah Foster, Executive Director, Africa Center for Democracy & Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)Kito Masimango, Chair of the DRC Coalition for the ICC Key practical issues, actors, and strategies for civil society coordination and partnership.
13.30-14.30 Lunch break  
14.30-16.30 Chair: Dr Tawanda Hondora – Executive Director, World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP) Strengthening communication strategies  – overcoming barriers to civil society cooperation in Africa Allan Ngari, Institute for Security Studies (ISS)Lanre Suraj, HEDA Resource Center.    Communication strategy developed
16.30 End of session  
19.00-21.00 Reception Cocktail Informal networking
Day 2 – 31 July 2019    
9.30-10.00 Recap of Day 1 Rapporteurs
10.00-11.30 Chair: Ebrima Sall, Executive Director, TrustAfrica Theme: Overview of situation of victims and victimization in Africa – implications for impunity in the continent. -Mama Koite Dounmbia, Présidente de la Plateforme des Femmes Leaders du Mali/Membre du Conseil du Fonds au Profit de Victimes/TFV CPI & Présidente du Réseau MUSONET Identify the pattern, actors, and locations of victims and possible options for CSOs towards increasing accountability and redress to victims.
11.30-11.30 Break  
  11.30-13.00 Legal, political, economic, social and cultural frameworks for victims support, redress and accountability in Africa Sharon Nakandha, Open Society Initiative (OSI)   Identify the contexts & options for CSOs strategies for coordinated engaging African governments
13.00 -14.00 Lunch  
14.00 -15.30 Chair: Ali Ouattara Participation of victims in justice and redress processes: issues, challenges and tasks of the civil society. Allan Ngari, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Comments and discussion Tasks for stronger coordinated victims networks identified
15.30 – 16.30 Summaries of key decisionsBuilding the futureTasks and roles  Communiqué and next actions
16.30 End of workshop  
August 1 2019 Departure  

KEYNOTE ADDRESS

Africa and the ICC: Achieving justice for victims and ending impunity across the continent

(Being the Keynote Address delivered by Femi Falana SAN at the Meeting convened by the African Network on International Criminal Justice held at Dakar, Senegal from July 30-31, 2019)

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) recognizes “that during this century millions of children, women and men have been victims of unimaginable atrocities that deeply shock the conscience of humanity” owing to armed conflicts. These “grave crimes threaten the peace, security and well-being of the world”.’ Africa has had its fair share of the problem. As such, various efforts to pursue, make and keep the peace have been intensified over the past half a century.

The pursuit of international criminal justice in Africa through the International Criminal Court (ICC) platform has not been without hitches. There is a growing rift between the African Union (AU), as a continental body, and the ICC owing to the AU’s perception that the ICC is pursuing selective justice and the AU’s misgivings about the ICC’s indictment /trial of some sitting heads of states in Africa.

The claim of selective justice undermines the very essence of global justice. On the face of it, the ICC Statute could apply to any situation, because even if the state is not a party to the Rome Statute, the Security Council could refer a situation in a non-state party to the ICC and the ICC would exercise jurisdiction over such a matter. Legally and conceptually, no state is immune from the ICC’s jurisdiction. However, experience over the years would seem to suggest that the ICC jurisdiction applies only to weaker states and not powerful states.

At the annual summit of the Heads of State and Governments of the AU held in Addis Ababa two years ago, the leaders and representatives of the member states voted to adopt a strategy to collectively withdraw from the ICC. However, Nigeria and Senegal did Africa proud by refusing to vote for the planned exit from the ICC. As the vote for impunity was defeated, South Africa, Burundi and The Gambia announced plans to withdraw from the ICC. Even though both Burundi and The Gambia withdrew from the ICC the latter has since returned to the ICC while South Africa has dropped the plan to quit the global criminal court.

The vote to quit the ICC by African leaders was based on the allegation that the ICC has exclusively focused attention on African leaders by only investigating and prosecuting cases of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by African leaders. To justify the decision of African States to quit the ICC, the AU announced that the mandate of the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights would be amended to include criminal jurisdiction. Nothing was however said by the AU on the urgent need by member States to strengthen their criminal justice system and accountability mechanisms.

In accusing the ICC of “selective justice” it has not been denied that there was basis to have opened investigation into the war crimes   in Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Central Africa Republic, Sudan, Mali, Libya, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire. It is on record that while the Security Council referred the cases of Darfur and Libya to the ICC the transition government in Libya decided to try the suspects in Tripoli. Even though the cases of Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire were referred to the ICC by the Special Prosecutor in exercise of his proprio motu powers the governments of both States accepted the jurisdiction of the court. However, the cases from Uganda, the Central Africa Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali were referred to the ICC by the governments themselves of those countries.

With respect to the convicted ex- President Hussein Habre of Chad  it was the African Union which mandated Senegal to set up a special tribunal for his trial in Dakar while it was the Government of Sierra Leone which requested the Security Council of the United Nations to set up the Special Court for Sierra Leone which tried ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor. In combating impunity in other parts of Africa, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda sat for 21 years; the Central Africa Republic plans to set up a Special Criminal Court while South Sudan has decided to establish a hybrid tribunal. The newly installed government in The Gambia set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission which is currently taking evidence from the victims of gross human rights abuse which characterized the Yahya Jammeh regime.

From the foregoing it is indisputably clear that even though the ICC has tried a number of political leaders in Africa, majority of the cases were referred to the court by African States. In other instances, it was either the United Nations Security Council or the African Union which ensured that brutal dictators were made to stand trial and account for the atrocities perpetrated by them while in office. In all the cases in which the ICC intervened it was confirmed that the States were either unable or unwilling to prosecute the suspects who were involved in genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

To the extent that the ICC has failed to try the heads of governments of some powerful states responsible for the unprecedented crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria the allegation of selective prosecution of African leaders cannot be dismissed lightly. But the failure of the ICC to prosecute such well known highly placed criminal suspects should not be a justification for preventing the arrest and trial of other perpetrators of crimes against humanity and genocide. 

As far as Africa is concerned the ICC cannot be absolved of the allegations of selective prosecution. In fact, the case of former President Laurent Gbagbo has gone from selective prosecution to selective persecution. Whereas he was discharged and acquitted in February 2019 the ICC has ordered him to be incarcerated in Belgium pending when the Prosecutor would file a fresh charge against him. But since the ICC has no power to order a defendant that has been tried, discharged and acquitted it ought to quash the detention of Mr. Gbagbo forthwith. 

In as much as AU is opposed to the indictment and prosecution of African leaders not much has been done to promote to accountability and defend human rights. In fact, in order not to be held to account only nine States (Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali and Tanzania and The Gambia) have made a Declaration to allow victims of human rights abuse to seek redress in the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights. However, the AU will be deceiving itself if it believes that the planned mass withdrawal of African states from the ICC will shield African leaders who engage in genocidal acts from prosecution and humiliation. As long as the governments in Africa continue to pay lip service to the fight against impunity, the victims of egregious human rights infringements will not hesitate to seek redress in available human rights mechanisms with a view to bringing perpetrators to book.

If the ICC wants to be relevant in Africa it cannot continue to pick and choose the cases to investigate and prosecute. For instance, the Prosecutor of the ICC issued warnings and threatened to prosecute politicians linked with political violence during the 2015 general election in Nigeria. But no such warning was ever issued when former President Yahya Jammeh annulled a credible presidential election held in The Gambia in 2016. Happily, the Economic Community of West African States intervened decisively and prevented the break out of a civil war in the country. As the ICC cannot continue to turn a blind eye to atrocities committed by the regime of former president Yahya Jammeh of Gambia the Prosecutor should open an investigation into them under the Rome Statute without any further delay.

If the AU does not want Africans accused of violations of international law to be tried outside the continent and outside domestic jurisdictions, it has to show strong political will to combat impunity and ensure justice for victims. Refusal to comply with court orders admitting criminal suspects to bail or ordering the release of detainees is an invitation to anarchy. The manipulation of constitutions for tenure elongation is also an invitation to political instability. The AU has to adopt measures to prevent the manipulation of national constitutions to legitimise tenure elongation by ruling parties, harassment of opposition figures and civil society activists, killing of political opponents, proscription of civil groups, closure of media houses and ban on freedom of expression and association.

The inevitable collision between the sovereignty of states over their criminal justice systems and supranational criminal adjudication is addressed by the Rome Statute of the ICC through recognition of the primacy of the domestic legal system. Under articles 1 and 17 of the Rome Statute, complementarity enables states to retain jurisdiction over crimes committed in their territories and by their nationals. The purpose of the Court is to complement national jurisdictions that are unable or unwilling to prosecute international crimes. By affirming the principle of complementarity, the parties to the Rome Statute demonstrate that they do not intend the ICC to actively step into the shoes of national criminal justice systems.

Indeed, the primary responsibility to protect African people and residents from violations of human rights rests squarely with individual AU member states, in recognition of the sovereign responsibilities and duties of states. Referring a handful of cases and situations to the ICC cannot and will not satisfactorily end the culture of impunity for human rights violations and abuses across the continent and will not give effective remedies, justice and reparations to African victims.

To best address accountability and combat impunity across the continent, African leaders should strengthen and improve domestic criminal justice systems and the regional and sub-regional human rights courts and mechanisms. In particular, the Summit of Heads of State or Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should reaffirm its commitment to improve respect for human rights among its member states, consistent with the SADC treaty, which commits them to act in accordance with the principles of “human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”

The Summit of Heads of State or Government should without further delay restore the SADC Tribunal’s human rights mandate and comply fully with the orders of regional tribunals and municipal courts. It should be noted that SADC leaders in August 2014 stripped the tribunal of its mandate to receive human rights complaints from individuals and organizations, leaving it only to adjudicate disputes between member countries. This drastically limits the tribunal’s human rights protection mandate.

The AU should immediately rescind its 2018 outrageous decision [Decision EX.CL/Dec.1015(XXIII)] to limit the autonomy and human rights mandate of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. This illegal decision is entirely inconsistent and incompatible with the human rights provisions of the AU Constitutive Act, and it is retrogressive to say the least. It should be noted that the AU Executive Council in June 2018 stated in its decision that the African Commission only had “independence of a functional nature, and not independence from the same organs that created the body.” The AU Executive Council also decided to authorize the AU policy organs to revise the criteria for the commission to grant observer status to NGOs, taking into account overtly broad considerations of “African values and traditions.”

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights itself has to wake up and be counted on the side of human rights, be more assertive in the exercise of its human rights mandate and to robustly challenge any attack on its foundational instrument—the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights—by the AU or any other institutions for that matter. The African Commission has to restate its historical leading role across the continent in promoting and protecting human and peoples’ rights, including in Nigeria when it delivered groundbreaking decisions during the period of military dictatorship in the country.

The Malabo Protocol, that is, the Protocol  ‘on the African Court of Justice and Human Rights’,

[and the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, Annex,
Malabo Protocol]

, with jurisdiction on international crimes, corruption and “illicit exploitation of natural resources,” contained in Article 28A, should be amended to remove Article 46A which provides immunity for sitting leaders, to the effect that: “No charges shall be commenced or continued 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.”

The AU should stop prioritizing ‘political settlement’ of egregious human rights abuses at the expense of accountability, access to justice and effective remedies for African victims of violations and abuses. Accountability and justice must never be sacrificed to promote the interests of those in power. African victims of human rights violations and abuses cannot have faith and confidence in domestic criminal justice systems and regional and sub-regional human rights courts if the AU continues to fail or refuse to address the challenges confronting these institutions of justice and to consistently obey and enforce court judgments.

The African human rights community should coordinate and organize victims of crimes against humanity and genocide to seek reliefs within the criminal justice system. Victims of human rights abuse should be encouraged and supported to seek redress in domestic courts and regional tribunals and institutions.

The human rights must realise that repression is imposed on African countries for the sole purpose of implementing the anti peoples’ policies dictated by the International Monetary Fund and other imperialist institutions that have continued to control the economy of African countries. This Network must not rely on Western governments and funding agencies if it wants to achieve the objective of promoting accountability in Africa. 

The AU and its member states and African leaders in general must sort out the procedural obstacles that continue to impede the effective enforcement of judgments of regional courts in domestic nation states.

The AU should stop engaging in confrontation with the ICC and instead show genuine commitment to prosecute those accused within member states’ domestic courts, develop the capacity to prosecute crimes under international law within national courts, and improve access to justice for victims nationally and regionally.

The African Union should adequately fund the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and encourage its member states that have not yet done so to ratify the protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and make declarations that would allow individuals and NGOs direct access to the court.

As noted, the AU should politically empower the court and ensure enforcement of all its rulings and judgments if it is ever going to effectively fulfill its human rights objectives, as contained in its Constitutive Act and ensure justice for victims of human rights violations and abuses across the continent.

The need for prosecution at the ICC will remain as long as African leaders continue to fail or refuse to address entrenched impunity and gross injustices on the continent. African solution to the problem of African impunity should mean accountability for perpetrators and justice and effective remedies for victims. Owing to the inability of the criminal justice system to bring the violators of human rights abuse in many countries the ICC is a very popular institution in Africa. Hence, it has continued to receive complaints alleging contraventions of the Rome Statute by many public figures in Africa. In fact, the office of the Special Prosecutor recently disclosed that it has so far received 131 petitions from Nigeria alone. 

Apart from the ICC the victims of gross abuse of human rights in Africa will continue will continue to seek redress in countries whose courts are clothed with universal jurisdiction in the area of human rights. Because of the refusal of some governments to prosecute public officers who sponsor electoral offence the United States government has imposed visa ban on them. 

In fighting impunity the human rights community must stop relying on reports compiled by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other foreign NGOs. The Network on International Criminal Justice should speak authoritatively in defence of human rights in Africa. As a matter of urgency, the human rights community should pressurize the AU to end the illegal occupation of the territory of Western Sahara by the Kingdom of Morocco in line with the provisions of articles 13 and 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. 

Finally, it is pertinent to remind the representatives of the NGOs in this meeting that the people of Africa were united in tbe struggle against colonialism, apartheid and military dictatorship. The struggle succeeded because the people were organised. Once again, the people have to be mobilised and organised to end impunity in Africa. It cannot be done by NGOs alone but by the people who are the actual victims of political repression and economic exploitation. I therefore challenge the Network to link up with progressive political parties, trade unions, student unions and other youth bodies as well as women groups in the struggle against impunity in Africa

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