African Network For the International Criminal Justice (ANICJ) Issues Press Statement in Commemoration of the Interational Justice Day, Urges the Governments of the Republic of Benin, Cote D’Ivoire and Tanzania to Reconsider Their Withdrawal of Access to the African Court by Individuals and NGOs.

Today, the African Network for the International Criminal Justice (ANICJ) commemorates the 22nd anniversary of the World Day for International Justice and calls for end to impunity for international crimes in Africa. The network, comprising over 150 civil society organizations (CSOs) and coalitions across Africa, urges African governments to support the Africa Union’s Court on Human and People’s Rights and commit to actualizing the criminal chamber of the court by ratifying and implementing the Protocol to the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (Malabo Protocol).

African CSOs under the network also urge the governments of Tanzania, Rwanda, Cote d’Voire and Benin, who had discontinued their citizens directly accessing the African Court, to reverse the decisions so as to empower the court to deliver on its mandate.[1]

World Justice Day

 On the 17th July 1998, the Statutes of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was adopted in Rome. To mark this founding anniversary, the 17th of July was declared “Day of International Justice” and is commemorated across the world, especially by the States Parties to the Rome Statute and supporters of the ICC.

The ANICJ uses this occasion to commend the immense effort of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other regional judicial bodies like the African Court on Human and People’s Right, in fighting impunity in the world, especially in Africa.

The aim of this day is to unite support for justice for international crimes as defined in the Statute, as well as promote victims’ rights. Today reminds the world of the global commitment made in 1998 in the Rome Statute of the ICC to help prevent serious crimes, discourage those that put the peace, security and well-being of the world at risk, and to ensure that perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression are held accountable for their actions, which would play an essential role in delivering justice for victims of mass atrocity crimes and preventing their recurrence. Every state, and the international community as a whole, has a role to play in this historic battle against impunity.

Since 2002, the ICC has tried perpetrators with crimes that include the use of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), sexual violence in Central African Republic (CAR), and systematic destruction of humanity’s shared cultural heritage at Timbuktu, Mali. In doing so, the Court has helped establish that any person, regardless of rank or office, can be held accountable for atrocities that violate international law and stain the conscience of humanity. From its creation to the present day, the ICC has been involved in several investigations, preliminary examinations; has issued arrest warrants, summons to appear; persons have been detained and cases have been opened, etc. These actions are welcomed by the ANICJ who believe that today the ICC is making an enormous contribution to the fight against impunity and to the maintenance of world order through its deterrent effect. Its recent confirmation of possible investigations of international crimes in Afghanistan, despite political pressure from the United States of America, attests to the courage and commitment to justice of ICC’s key players and staff. 

Alongside the ICC, domestic and regional mechanisms, like the African Court on Human and People’s Right as well as ad hoc and mixed tribunals, have also contributed to strengthening international justice. Principles of international justice have also been reinforced by the indictment of alleged war crimes perpetrator. TheAfrican Court on Human and People’s Right as one of the main organs of the African Union, is responsible for strengthening the human rights protection system in the continent. The court was established in order to create a strong and credible human rights body to hold States accountable and to provide individuals with a measure of access to justice. The Malabo Protocol envisions to expand the jurisdiction of this court to criminal prosecution of perpetrators of international crimes. To have the Protocol come into force requires 15 ratifications, which, today, ANICJ  urges all African States to ratify the Protocol as well as the Statute of teh African Court of Justice and Human Rights, and to strongly commit themselves to actualising the African criminal court, so that millions of victims in the continent can access the court for redress and justice.

Finally, on this World Day for International Justice, we, as Africans, must remind ourselves as a continent of the gains of pursuing justice, fairness and accountability for all mass atrocities, not just as an institutional responsibility and legal obligation, but as a moral necessity and obligation.

Mr. Chino Obiagwu S.A.N.

Coordinator, ANICJ.

[1][1] These countries recently withdrew their ratifications of Article 36(4) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, that allowed their citizens to file cases before the court. Tanzania hosts the court (in Arusha), and its withdrawal from the citizens’ direct access declaration depicts its lack of support to the court.

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