The Battle Against Impunity: Chinks in the Armor?

myriam International Conferences, Journalism Training

Do immunity rights, peace negotiations and national amnesty laws contradict international criminal law?

International Media Conference
First week: July 4 – 15, 2011 at the Gaborone Sun Hotel, Gaborone, Botswana

International Media Workshop
Second week: July 11 – 15, 2011 at the Department of Media Studies, University of Botswana

Organised by Bettina Ambach, Wayamo Communication Foundation, with the financial support of the German Federal Foreign Office.


The heart of the ICC’s mission is to end impunity for the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Yet the jurisdiction is limited in numerous ways – some legal, some practical. Are these limitations acceptable and what can be done to limit any adverse effects they might have in enabling perpetrators of atrocities to avoid accountability?

Topics addressed
Can international tribunals strip heads of state off their immunity? Can one say that through the indictment by international criminal courts of sitting heads of state (Slobodan Milošević, Charles Taylor und Omar al-Bashir) immunity rights do not apply as a matter of customary international law? Is the jurisdiction of international tribunals superior to that of national courts? How should the Rome Statute deal with the immunity rights of rulers of non-States Parties? How should the Court address situations in which states deliberately erect legal hurdles? Even if the traditional immunity for sitting heads of state is eroding, will neighbouring countries arrest visiting heads of state who have been indicted by an international tribunal?
Amnesties – what role, if any, may amnesties appropriately play in international criminal justice? Do national amnesty laws contradict international law? How should the ICC approach cases involving truth commissions or local traditional justice mechanisms that may not entail punishment for all perpetrators? Shall the pursuit of justice take a back or a front seat to ongoing peace negotiations?
Article 16 of the Rome Statute (e.g. request by the African Union to defer the ICCindictments in the interest of peace, justice and reconciliation): Does the prospect of use of Article 16 by the Security Council undermine the Court’s legitimacy? How to resolve the contradiction between the AU´s decision that its member states shall not cooperate with the ICC in the arrest of President Bashir and the obligations the African States Parties have under the ICC statute?

How does the African Union want to address issues of accountability and the fight against impunity? How do they envision the cooperation and complementarity regime with the ICC?
Issues of politicization and double standards in international criminal justice: How to counter the perception that “Africa” is targeted by the ICC? Is the ICC selectively prosecuting cases – being reluctant to pick cases that affect the interests of influential States Parties and non-States Parties?
To provide the general public with reliable information about international criminal justice and other transitional justice mechanisms, well-informed and professionally trained journalists are called for. A sound understanding of International Justice is of the essence, particularly in circumstances where ex-Presidents are indicted, but nobody is able to arrest them and where ex-political leaders and/or warlords stand trial thousands of miles away. Ideally, people in crisis areas should find comfort in and identify with the court in The Hague.
By developing their technical ability and their knowledge to report on such issues, local journalists will be in a position to broaden public understanding. Thus, the workshop seeks, not only to contribute to strengthening peace, the rule of law and reconciliation, but also to increase awareness and the willingness to see the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide brought to justice.
Botswana is one of the African countries which has committed to the obligations of an ICC State Party. The government has stated that it would arrest President Bashir if he came to Botswana. It is for that reason that the organizers of this project considered Botswana as an appropriate venue to organize a conference/workshop under the title “The battle against impunity”.
The first week of the seminar is designed for 15 senior journalists/editors from Botswana and 15 senior journalists from other African countries which are ICC related (Kenya, Uganda, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Namibia, South Africa, Libya, Zimbabwe). The journalists are from radio, television and print and should have a minimum of three years’ working experience.
The second week is a workshop designed for 15 field reporters and other journalists from radio and print. It will focus on the journalistic skills needed to cover international criminal justice issues, to develop codes of conduct, to promote ethical journalism, to enhance radio-production and writing skills.
At the end of the workshop the participants will receive a certificate.
Project Aims
  • To enhance the capacity of African journalists to report about international criminal justice issues in a balanced and responsible manner.
  • To strengthen the ability of African journalists to report on issues of immunity rights and amnesty laws in the context of the peace and justice debate.
  • To raise awareness about the International Criminal Court’s mandate and work.
  • To improve the skills and develop professionalism of local journalists.
  • To bolster a comprehensive system to end impunity for the worst crimes known to humanity.
Project Contents
  • How to end impunity? Role and functioning of the International Criminal Court, local justice and reconciliation mechanisms, the African Union and its fight against impunity.
  • Immunities and national amnesty laws – how to reconcile with international criminal law? Peace and justice debate.
  • Perception of the ICC in Africa: issues of politicization and double standards.
  • Journalistic skills training (second week).
  • Journalistic ethics and conflict-sensitive reporting.
  • Production of audiovisual and press reports about the above topics.
During the first week, national and international high profile guest lecturers will visit and address the workshop participants. After their respective presentations, the guest lecturers will be questioned and interviewed by the journalists/participants. The resulting materials will become an integral part of the final production of audiovisual and press reports at the end of the two-weeks-workshop. These programmes can then be broadcast on the participant’s respective radio and television stations or published in their newspapers.
The skills training of the second week is based on interactive, hands-on concept, favouring brief inputs, discussions, practical exercises, individual and group work, and digital studio production.
Course Director and Trainers
Bettina Ambach, director of Wayamo Communication Foundation.
Bettina Ambach & Joseph Roberts-Mensah, former Chief of UNMIL Radio (United Nations Mission in Liberia)


Todd Buchwald, Assistant Legal Adviser for United Affairs, US State Department, Washington: Reflections on the “chinks” in the armor in the battle against impunity.
Sanji Mmasenono Monageng, Judge at the International Criminal Court, The Hague, Netherlands.
Fatou Bensouda, Deputy Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, The Hague, Netherlands
Athaliah Molokomme, Attorney General, Botswana
Ben Kioko, Legal Counsel, African Union Commission, Addis Ababa

Press Releases

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Botswana, 5 July 2011 “Botswana supports the warrant of arrest issued by the ICC”
International Criminal Court, 12 July 2011 “President of the Assembly of States Parties visits Botswana”