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African Civil Society Calls on Governments to Maintain Firm Commitment to ICC: NGOs declarations and press releases; Latest editorials and blog postings; Related articles
09 June 2009
Dear All,

In response to the 4 March arrest warrant issued for Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, a number of prominent Arab and African public figures and organizations have been vocal in their criticism of the International Criminal Court.

To counter these allegations in advance of the meeting of African states parties to the Rome Statute scheduled for 8-9 June in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a number of CICC members have issued statements in support of the Court and called for African governments to uphold their commitment to the fight against impunity.

The Coalition for the ICC-including NGO representatives in the CAR, Cote d'Ivoire, Uganda, Senegal and Cameroon-have published timely editorials in newspapers the world over. Some of these op-eds have been posted to the Coalition's "In Situ" blog at http://coalitionfortheicc.org/blog/?cat=7&langswitch_lang=en

In parallel, the Coalition for the ICC has produced a backgrounder on the ICC and Africa at http://www.coalitionfortheicc.org/documents/Africa_and_the_ICC.pdf

Please take note of the Coalition's policy on situations before the ICC (below), which explicitly states that the CICC will not take a position on potential and current situations before the Court or situations under analysis. The Coalition, however, will continue to provide the most up-to-date information about the ICC.

With regards,

CICC Secretariat
[email protected]

************************************

I.DECLARATIONS AND PRESS RELEASES

i. "African Civil Society Calls on Governments to Maintain Firm Commitment to ICC: June 8-9 AU Meeting Good Opportunity to Resist Backtracking by Some States," 8 June 2009, CICC Press Release, http://coalitionfortheicc.org/documents/Uganda_May_2009_regional_strategy_meeting_PR.pdf

"Following a three-day meeting of African civil society organizations convened by the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), advocates for justice called on African states to renew and strengthen their support for the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The meeting was held in the lead up to an 8-9 June 2009 meeting at African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa of African states that are party to the Rome Statute, the Court's founding treaty.

'Many African officials remain strong supporters of the ICC. This was demonstrated recently when African ambassadors to the UN endorsed a strong statement in support of the Court that was shared with AU embassies and African governments,' said William R. Pace, convenor of the Coalition.

'When Al-Bashir's arrest warrant was issued, it sent a clear message to leaders everywhere: it will no longer be business as usual, as there is now zero tolerance for impunity,' said Oby Nwankwo, executive director of the Enugu, Nigeria-based Civil Resource Development and Documentation Center. 'While some backlash to the Court can be expected, African states must toe the line of integrity.'

Some have complained that the Court is using double standards-that it's only investigating in Africa though other leaders commit crimes too. 'You have to look carefully at who is making these arguments against the Court,' said Mohammed Ndifuna, executive director of the Kampala-based Human Rights Network-Uganda, "These are like neighborhood thugs saying 'don't go after me, get that other thug.'

'But the message is now clear,' said Ndifuna, 'No one is above the law.'

Organizations at the regional meeting in Kampala issued a statement calling on African ICC states parties to:

Commit to respect the principles established under the Rome Statute and not to take any steps that could undermine the functioning of the Court;

Consider the negative impact any decision to withdraw support would have on the development of international justice, the fight against impunity and the rule of law in Africa and other parts of the world;

Fully support the work of the International Criminal Court, which represents the last resort for thousands of victims of grave human rights violations who cannot obtain justice at the national level;

Fully cooperate with and assist the International Criminal Court in its investigative and prosecutorial mandate;

Encourage all states that have not yet done so to ratify the Rome Statute and the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities, and to fully implement their provisions into national law in order to be able to prosecute crimes nationally and to cooperate better with the Court.

'Governments must not go soft on justice, turning their backs on victims in Africa and around the world who demand an end to impunity for international crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC,' said Dismas Kitenge Senga, vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and president of its partner organization in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Groupe Lotus.

In addition to its call on African members of the Court, the Coalition for the ICC and its member organizations in Kampala called on the African Union to honor the principles in its Constitutive Act by supporting justice and the rule of law and work to establish a dialogue between the AU, civil society, the ICC and other relevant bodies.

'The CICC recognizes the need to consider all aspects of maintaining peace on the continent and respect for the highest goals of AU institutions,' said Pace. 'Currently, 39 of the 53 AU member states have ratified or signed the Rome Statute. This is the most of any region in the world. Furthermore, three of the four ICC investigations in Africa were referred to the Court by African states themselves. It can therefore be said that the ICC is also an African institution. '

Participants at the Kampala meeting also urged the Court to help combat negative perceptions of its work by 'engaging robustly with key government officials, civil society actors and the general public' and 'hold hearings in African states as an important symbolic move to bring justice closer to African victims.'

ii. "Statement Expressing African Civil Society Support for International Justice", Statement adopted at CICC Africa Strategy Meeting held in Kampala, Uganda from 27 to 29 May 2009, http://www.coalitionfortheicc.org/documents/Statement_Africa_StrategyFVV.pdf

"We, the participants of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) Africa Strategy Meeting held in Kampala, Uganda from 27 to 29 May 2009,

Recalling the ratification of the International Criminal Court by thirty (30) African states and their commitment to fully support the work of the International Criminal Court;

Further recalling the Resolution on Strengthening International Justice in Africa made by NGOs during the NGO Forum of the 45th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights on 9-11 May 2009 in Banjul, The Gambia;

Recognizing that the International Criminal Court represents the aspiration to end impunity in the world;

Conscious of the efforts by the International Criminal Court to conduct investigations and provide justice to thousands of victims of genocide, crimes against humanity and other grave human rights violations that shock the conscience of humanity;

Bearing in mind that countless victims of mass atrocities in Africa rely on the International Criminal Court to provide justice where national justice systems are not able to do so;

Acknowledging that for those victims and potential victims of mass atrocities, the establishment of the International Criminal Court has had a significant deterrent effect and has helped prevent further occurrence of atrocities in some countries;

Noting with great concern the reported pressure on some African countries to suspend their support for the Court or even formally withdraw from the Rome Statute;

Hereby urge the African States Parties to the Rome Statute to:

Commit to respect the principles established under the Rome Statute and not to take any steps that could undermine the functioning of the Court;

Consider the negative impact any decision to withdraw support would have on the development of international justice, the fight against impunity and the rule of law in Africa and other parts of the world;

Fully support the work of the International Criminal Court, which represents the last resort for the thousands of victims of grave human rights violations who cannot obtain justice at the national level; Fully cooperate with and assist the International Criminal Court in its investigative and prosecutorial mandate;

Encourage all states that have not yet done so to ratify the Rome Statute and the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities, and to fully implement their provisions into national law in order to be able to prosecute crimes nationally and to cooperate better with the Court;

Strongly urge the African Union to:

Adhere to the principles elaborated in the Constitutive Act by supporting justice and the rule of law;

Establish a mechanism to facilitate dialogue between the African Union, Civil Society, the International Criminal Court, and other relevant bodies;

Further strongly advise the International Criminal Court to:

Engage robustly with key government officials, civil society actors, and the general public in Africa to counter negative perceptions and widely inform on its activities on the ground;

Hold hearings in African States as an important symbolic move to bring justice closer to African victims and to facilitate access to justice for victims and relevant communities."

To view list of signatories, see http://www.coalitionfortheicc.org/documents/Statement_Africa_StrategyFVV.pdf

iii. "Open Letter to African States Parties to the Rome Statute: The victims of the most serious crimes are counting on you", Open Letter by FIDH and 23 partner organizations located in 19 out of 30 African States Parties of the Rome Statute, 4 June 2009, http://www.fidh.org/Open-Letter-to-African-States

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member and partner organizations which are signatories of this letter call on African states parties to the Rome Statute which are to meet in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, on June 8 and 9, to support the action of the International Criminal Court (ICC), a judicial body complementary to national jurisdictions and in charge of trying the perpetrators of the most serious crimes that affect the international community as a whole.

This meeting is convened by the African Union to reflect on the relationships between the ICC and Africa, and comes within a context of criticism expressed by some African leaders towards international justice, since the arrest warrant issued on March, 4, 2009 by the ICC against the Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, for crimes committed in Darfur.

Our organisations recall that African states have been very active in the establishment and implementation of the International Criminal Court, asserting that the right to justice for victims of international crimes - war crimes, crime against humanity and genocide - is synonymous with prevention and is an integral part of the process of settlement of conflicts which tear the continent apart. This participation of the African continent in the work of international justice meets the objectives and principles stated in the Constitutive Act of the African Union, relating to the fight against the impunity of perpetrators of serious human rights violations.

In March 2009, Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, declared that supporting the ICC means choosing to be on the side of peace, against that of oppressors. Many African states made this choice, taking into consideration that the first state which ratified the ICC Statute was an African state, and that thirty of them are now parties to the Rome Statute.

Besides, 3 African states have, on their own initiative, requested the ICC to intervene in complementarity with their jurisdictions, considering that the latter were incapable of providing an answer to the victims' suffering.

'The African victims and victims in the whole world are watching you. Removing your support to the ICC would be like turning your back on those who have suffered too much because of the conflicts and crises that ravage the African Continent', declared Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

As crises and conflicts prevail worldwide, it would be much regrettable to undermine those supporting the victims and peace, by fighting the impunity of the perpetrators of the most serious crimes. However, the moment has come to assert that international justice must truly be universal and apply on every continent, regardless of the states or perpetrators who are involved. This is the fight you must champion. Victims throughout the world are watching you and support you."

To read the full list of signatories, please see: http://www.fidh.org/IMG/article_PDF/Les-victimes-des-crimes-les-plus.pdf

iv. "Reaffirming Africa's commitment to non-impunity" ICTJ Press Release, 2 June 2009, http://ictj.org/en/news/press/release/2676.html

"African states that are party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court should reaffirm their commitment to the principles of justice and accountability, the International Center for Transitional Justice said today in advance of representatives of those 30 African nations meeting in Addis Ababa.

'This is the opportunity for African states to highlight their willingness to seek justice for victims of mass atrocities,' said Suliman Baldo, director of ICTJ's Africa program. 'We believe support for the Rome Statute and the ICC advances international justice, which is in the interest of all Africans.'

The June 8-9 meeting in Addis Ababa takes place three months after the ICC issued an arrest warrant against President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The meeting, which is also open to member states of the African Union who have not signed the Rome Statute, is expected to focus on Africa's response to the ICC's role on the continent.

There is concern that some participating countries might use the meeting as a platform to call for the withdrawal of African states from the Rome Statute. The ICC, however, is intended as a court of last resort, to be used only if national efforts to seek accountability and combat impunity fail.

Since the 1990s, Africa has been at the forefront of efforts to hold to account perpetrators of massive major human abuses. Beginning with the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Rwanda's own domestic prosecutions for genocide perpetrators and the decisive rallying by African states that enabled the creation of the ICC, Africa has championed the cause of accountability.

ICTJ calls upon all African states to reaffirm their commitment to the principle of addressing impunity through national, regional and international legal instruments. We also call on nations that have not yet joined the Rome Statute to do so."

v. Communiqué de presse appelant au soutien à la CPI, ACAT/Sénégal, AI Sénégal, ONDH, RADDHO, et RADI, 5 juin 2009, http://coalitionfortheicc.org/documents/CPI_Communiqe.pdf (in French)

"Senegalese human rights organizations who have signed this communiqué hereby express their deep concern by the actions undertaken by the government of Senegal with regard to the meeting of African States Parties to the ICC from 8-9 June in Addis Ababa which is designed to 'bring about a common African position with regard to the ICC' according to the Minister of Justice...

We demand the immediate stop of the disinformation campaign led by the African Union and a number of heads of state - among which that of Senegal - against the International Criminal Court and its Prosecutor.

We call upon Senegalese and African populations to show their support for the Court, which action contributes to the protection of African people against the persecution of their leaders."

[Translation is Informal and Provided by CICC Secretariat.]

See also:

a. "Resolution on Strengthening International Justice in Africa," from the Forum on the Participation of NGOs Preceding the 45th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights, Gambia, 11 May 2009, http://coalitionfortheicc.org/documents/45th_Session_of_NGO_Forum_Resolution_on_ICC.pdf

"...[We] call on the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights to urge the member states of the African Union (AU) to support victims by promoting judicial and other efforts to end impunity as well as promoting accountability for serious crimes under international law including through strengthening support and collaboration with the ICC....

b. "Statement by representatives of African civil society and the legal profession on the implications of the African Union's recent decisions on universal jurisdiction and the work of the International Criminal Court in Africa," Cape Town, 11 May 2009, http://coalitionfortheicc.org/documents/11_May_2009_Cape_Town_statement.pdf

"... We call on African States Parties as well as the signatories to the Rome Statute to...reaffirm your commitment to uphold your international and domestic obligations stemming from your decision to ratify the Rome Statute of the ICC...."

II. OP-EDS

i. "Let the International Criminal Court Do Its Work," Op-ed by Wangari Maathai, Wole Soyinka and Desmond Tutu (584 words), IPS, 8 June 2009, http://www.ipsnews.net/columns_maathai.asp

"Representatives of African States will meet in Addis Ababa (June 8-9) to 'exchange views' on the International Criminal Court (ICC). Prompted by the war crimes indictment of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, the meeting will provide a platform for the Court's dissenters in Africa, and aim to sew discord among ICC supporters, writes Wangari Maathai, Wole Soyinka and Desmond Tutu.

We are deeply concerned by the ongoing violence, displacement, and repression in Sudan ¬and we support the role of the International Criminal Court in bringing justice and accountability for the peoples of Sudan...."

ii. "Desmond Tutu, Soyinka and Wangari Maathai bring their support to the ICC" ("Desmond Tutu, Soyinka et Wangari Maathai apportent leur soutien à la CPI "), 8 June 2009, Agence de Presse Sénégalese, http://www.aps.sn/aps.php?page=articles&id_article=56490 (in French)

"African Nobel prize winners Wole Soyinka and Desmond Tutu have called for support of the International Criminal Court (ICC), to help counter what some NGOs are calling 'campaign of misinformation' that would have some believe that the Court is only focused on targeting African...

[Translation is Informal and Provided by CICC Secretariat.]

iii. « In Reaction to the Bashir Arrest Warrant, » Op-ed by Mohamed Gueye (Le Quotidien), 5 June 2009, http://www.lequotidien.sn/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7181&Itemid=4

"In an open letter signed by the Senegalese lawyer and Dakar-based Barrister Me Mohamed Kébé, Senegal was urged to renew its commitment toward the ICC and encourage its neighbors to make the same commitment in the face of concerning remarks made publically by President Abdoulaye Wade on 18 May ... Me Mohamed Kébé noted that 'Senegal played a leadership role in creating the Court and was its first state party' Senegal is also one of the few African countries to have fully implemented the Rome Statute into national law so that the country is capable of prosecuting the serious crimes under the ICC's jurisdiction. As a human rights defender who has stood with victims of grave crimes in their long march to justice, Kébé said he was 'deeply saddened by President Wade's remarks' and urged him to 'refrain from any action that would undermine the work of this Court and subvert the ideals of justice that our country has long held dear'..."

[Translation is Informal and Provided by CICC Secretariat.]

iv. "ICC can end impunity, human-rights abuses in Africa," Op-ed by Laetitia Bauder of the Africa Human Rights Defenders Project in Kamala, (The East African), 1-7 June 2009, http://ea.nationmedia.com/EA/EA/2009/06/01/index.shtml

"...There is no doubt that the ICC is one of the most important tools at the disposition of the victims of mass human rights violations in Africa...."

III. IN SITU BLOG POSTINGS

i. "African Leaders Should Stand up for Justice," Op-ed by Lucile Mazangue, Member of the Association of Female Lawyers of the Central African Republic, 3 April 2009, (Originally published in Burkina Faso Newspaper "Le Pays" in French), http://coalitionfortheicc.org/blog/

"...African ICC states parties consistently express support at annual meetings of the court, but have remained far too quiet in the public debate. The question is: will our leaders continue to let the court take a beating, or will they begin to stand up for justice much more clearly and strongly? Allowing efforts to ensure justice to be denigrated poses serious risks for victims and ordinary people across Africa.... The people of Africa expect their leaders to be on their side, and on the side of justice."

ii. "ICC doing the job of failed African judiciary," Op-ed by Roland Abeng, lawyer and representative of the Cameroon Coalition for the ICC, published an article in "The East African," a Kenyan newspaper. http://coalitionfortheicc.org/blog/

"....Should Africans and the African Union have an alternative to the International Criminal Court? To find the answer, ask yourself whether there are even five African countries with judicial systems that can try grievous crimes fairly and equitably through an effective court structure....The ICC has not replaced viable national efforts. Rather, it helps attain justice where other options are not possible."

IV. RELATED NEWS ARTICLES

i. "Madické Niang, Minister of Justice: 'Senegal is not leaving the ICC" (Madické Niang, ministre de la Justice : 'Le Sénégal ne quitte pas la Cpi'), Walf Fadjri - L'Aurore, http://www.walf.sn/actualites/suite.php?rub=1&id_art=55990 (in French)

"... Madické Niang reacted to an NGO release condemning Senegal's move to convene a meeting in Addis Ababa for African countries to harmonize their position towards the International Criminal Court (ICC). For the Minister of Justice, Senegal has never said that it would leave the ICC. 'Senegal is fighting for impunity not to be acceptable in Africa any more and for the rule of law to be a reality everywhere in Africa; such a Senegal cannot ask other African countries to withdraw from the ICC', he said. 'African countries were asked to meet and have a joint initiative', the Minister clarified. However, the Minister warned that 'when we shall have the evidence that the ICC is only a court for African countries, then we shall take the most consequent position '. But it is only a matter of simply asking questions to the ICC, he continued, and to ask the Court to take into account the current reality that is for now prosecutions were only launched against African leaders.

... Madické Niang pledges Senegal will not leave the Court, having been the first country to ratify the Rome treaty. 'We are going to continue supporting the ICC', says Niang. But on a condition: it is necessary for the ICC ' to be a Court for all the leaders of Africa, Europe, America, Asia and everywhere ', he concluded."

Translation is Informal and Provided by CICC Secretariat.]

ii. «Senegalese NGOs Call for Support of the ICC" ("Des ONG sénégalaises appellent à soutenir la CPI »), Agence de Presse Sénégalaise, 5 June 2009, http://www.aps.sn/aps.php?page=articles&id_article=56421 (in French)

"Senegalese human rights organizations called upon Senegalese people and Africans in general 'to show their support' for the International Criminal Court (ICC), to counter the 'disinformation campaign' led against this institution by the African Union (AU) and a number of heads of state on the continent. ..."

[Translation is Informal and Provided by CICC Secretariat.]

iii. "African ICC Members Mull Withdrawal Over Bashir Indictment", By Peter Heinlein (VOA), 8 June 2009, http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-06-08-voa30.cfm

"African member states of the International Criminal Court are considering a mass withdrawal to protest the war crimes indictment against Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir. A pullout is unlikely, but many are demanding a one-year suspension of the indictment....

iv. "Meeting of African States Against the ICC: Four Organizations Raise their Voice," ("Réunion des Etats africains contre la CPI : quatre organisations élèvent la voix"), by Jean Louis Djiba (Press Afrik) 6 June 2009, http://www.pressafrik.com/Reunion-des-Etats-africains-contre-la-CPI-quatre-organisations-elevent-la-voix_a3953.htm (in French)

v. "African Campaign Against the ICC: Senegalese NGOs Denounce Senegalese Attitude" (Campagne africaine contre la Cpi : Des Ong sénégalaises dénoncent l'attitude de l'Etat du Sénégal), by Abdoul Aziz Agne (Walf Fadjri - L'Aurore), 6 June 2009 http://www.walf.sn/actualites/suite.php?rub=1&id_art=55989 (in French)

vi. "Human Rights Defenders Urge Senegal to Support the ICC" (Les défenseurs des droits humains invitent à soutenir la Cour »), Le Confident, 6 June 2009, http://www.lequotidien.sn/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7234&Itemid=9 (in French)

vii. "State's initiative for Africa's withdrawal from ICC disapproved" (L'initiative de l'Etat pour un retrait de l'Afrique de la Cpi désapprouvée), by Binta Ndong (Le Quotidien), 6 June 2009, http://www.lequotidien.sn/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7234&Itemid=9

viii. "The ICC is 'biased', according to a Senegalese diplomat" (La CPI est ''biaisée'', selon un diplomate sénégalais), Agence de Presse Sénégalaise, 7 June 2009, http://www.aps.sn/aps.php?page=articles&id_article=56455 (in French)

ix. "Demonization of the International Criminal Court by the Senegalese government: Civil society guns down Wade and its regime" (Diabolisation de la Cour Pénale Internationale par le gouvernement sénégalais: La société civile flingue Wade et son régime), lasquotidien.com, 7 June 2009, http://www.lasquotidien.info/IMG/article_PDF/article_1957.pdf

x. "CICC renews its appeal for justice in Africa" (La CICC renouvelle son appel pour la justice en Afrique ), Afriquejet, 25 May 2009 http://www.afriquejet.com/afrique-de-l'ouest/senegal/la-cicc-renouvelle-son-appel-pour-la-justice-en-afrique-2009052528316.html (in French)