Assembly of States Parties Side Event: Weaving the Strands – Domestic, Regional, Hybrid, and ICC Justice
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During the 16th Annual International Criminal Court Assembly of States Parties, the Wayamo Foundation and the Africa Group for Justice and Accountability (AGJA) held a side event entitled “Weaving the Strands – Domestic, Regional, Hybrid and ICC Justice” on Thursday 7 December 2017. The event was made possible by the generous funding of Switzerland, the Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
In her opening remarks to the well-attended event, International Criminal Court President, Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi positively highlighted the expanding activities of the AGJA, which she saw as an important actor and a voice of expertise in international criminal justice.
Navi Pillay, Former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, began by discussing the relationship between the ICC and Africa. Noting with concern South Africa’s stated intention to withdraw from the Rome Statute, she urged African states to continue to engage with the ICC constructively, rather than simply abandoning international criminal justice.
Former United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, Stephen Rapp, focused on different domestic justice initiatives and the need to promote and encourage domestic accountability. He passionately outlined how internationalised efforts can have positive effects on the political will, capacity, and legal tools required to ensure justice and accountability for international crimes. He went on to highlight other creative accountability mechanisms, such as the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism established by UN General Assembly in December 2016 to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the most serious crimes in Syria.
His remarks were followed by a detailed, analytical account of the challenges and opportunities entailed in the idea of establishing an African Court with criminal jurisdiction, as proposed by the Malabo Protocol. Shedding light on this important topic, Charles C. Jalloh, Professor of Law at Florida International University, noted that regional justice mechanisms of this kind held great promise but that there remained a great deal of work to be done before such a court could be established. Jalloh commented on the Malabo Protocol’s progressive and expansive list of crimes, one which goes farther than the Rome Statute by including transnational organised crime. However, he also pointed out that the proposed African Court will face funding challenges and criticism from some quarters due to the inclusion of temporary immunities for heads of state as well as senior government officials.
The side-event also featured a presentation from the AGJA’s newest member, Zainab Bangura, former United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, who stressed the importance of having international, regional, hybrid and domestic justice to ensure the successful investigation and prosecution of conflict-related sexual violence. She also argued that where domestic courts were unable to try perpetrators, other mechanisms were vital. For example, she pointed out that Sierra Leone would have been unable to try Charles Taylor, creating the express need for the Special Court for Sierra Leone to do so.
A rigorous and rich debate followed, with numerous questions and comments coming from the floor. The event was brought to a close by AGJA chairman and Chief Justice of the Gambia, Hassan Bubacar Jallow, who, in his role as moderator, summed up the evening’s deliberations by noting that justice at the regional, domestic and international level is vital to end impunity and protect the rule of law.
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