AU accountability gap | Zambia commits to ICC | Grave crimes in Mexico

Towards Silencing the Guns: 2020 © Amnesty

Eyes on AU to address impunity

As African Union (AU) members gathered in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa this week for its 29th biannual summit, Amnesty International urged state leaders to use the opportunity to lay out concrete measures for addressing impunity for conflict-related violations on the continent.

“For years, research by a wide range of actors including Amnesty International has demonstrated that lack of accountability for violations and abuses perpetuates the cycle of violence in many conflict-ridden countries,” a public statement by the international NGO read, calling for critical reflection on Africa’s goal of “silencing the guns” by the year 2020.

To this end, in November 2016, the AU’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) adopted a Master Roadmap outlining steps to address the root causes, drivers and impact of violent conflict in Africa. However, according to Amnesty, this Master Roadmap overlooks “the pervasive and entrenched impunity for gross human rights violations and abuses, and crimes under international law committed in conflicts and crises across the continent.”

This accountability gap has been linked to crises in South Sudan, Uganda and the Central African Republic (CAR) — the latter two with situations under investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

While much praised steps have been taken for accountability, including the trial of former Chadian leader Hissène Habré in Senegal, and the anticipated Special Criminal Court (SCC) to prosecute conflict-related crimes in the CAR, much work remains to be done by AU heads of state and government to reject impunity and stem the cycles of violence.  


Zambia to respect vote to stay with ICC

After an overwhelming 91.43% of Zambians polled voted for the country to remain in the International Criminal Court (ICC),  Zambian Minister of Justice Given Lubinda told Parliament that the people's decision would be respected and that the government had backtracked on its plan to withdraw from the Rome Statute system. The Justice Minister added that Zambia would alert the African Union (AU) of its position on the ICC.

A countrywide consultation to decide whether or not Zambia should leave the ICC prompted a stay campaign by 17 national and international organizations. Coalition member the Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) was among local civil society at the forefront of the stay campaign, holding workshops to raise awareness of the benefits of ICC membership.

"The results are clear and we expect the government to respect the will of the population," SACCORD Executive Director Boniface Cheembe said prior to the Justice Minister's announcement.

Based on the Justice Minister's statement, the government appears to share Cheembe's view: “The people of Zambia spoke very unequivocally through the consultative process. The result of this process was well covered by the media and it’s already a matter of public knowledge. The overwhelming majority of Zambians value our membership with the ICC”. He added “the highest number of petitioners indicated that the ICC is important because it acts as a deterrent for leaders who oppress fellow human beings”.

Burundi's withdrawal announcement last year marked the first in ICC history, and was followed by since-reversed attempts by The Gambia and South Africa. A proposed mass ICC withdrawal at last January's AU summit was opposed by numerous African governments who reaffirmed the continued place of the Court in both global and African justice.


Grave crimes alleged in Mexican state of Coahuila

FIDH and several Mexican organizations submitted a joint communication (report) this week to the ICC Prosecutor requesting that her Office open a preliminary examination into the serious alleged crimes committed in the Mexican state of Coahuila from 2009-2016. The contents of the report are based on the investigation and legal analysis carried out by the FIDH with the support of more than 100 Mexican organizations.

Mexico is the country with the most critical situation in the Americas according to FIDH. There have been 200,000 murders and 32,000 disappearances in the last 10 years. The report details how crimes against humanity were committed in Coahuila between 2009-2016, including arbitrary detention, torture and enforced disappearance as part of a systematic attack directed against the civilian population of Coahuila.


ICC investigations

CAR: As the new Prosecutor of the Special Criminal Court (SCC) in CAR is sworn in, civil society has urged more funding for the Court and called for a focus on victims.

DRC: Following former Congolese commander Bosco Ntaganda's ICC testimony that he prohibited sexual relations among militia members, judges granted defense lawyers an additional 15 hours to question him.

Uganda: The Foundation for Justice and Development Initiatives (FJDI) has called for special reparations for victims of sexual and gender based violence in order to help them adjust to life after the LRA.

Darfur, Sudan: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has reportedly been invited to Russia next month by Vladimir Putin, despite being wanted by the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.

Who suffers as al-Bashir enjoys impunity?


ICC preliminary examinations

Afghanistan: The ICC Prosecutor has countered claims of political motivations against opening an investigation, reaffirming a "reasonable basis" to believe allegations of atrocity crimes committed by warring factions in Afghanistan. 

Burundi: A new report by FIDH and partners has found that national authorities continue to employ concerning methods of repression, two years after the crisis first broke out.

Palestine: New Al-Haq infographic on residency revocation alleges war crimes under the Rome Statute.


Campaign for Global Justice

The ICC launched a campaign to celebrate 15 years since its creation — championed by its President as "one of the greatest accomplishments of multilateral diplomacy."

Six years after a Council of Europe report accused Kosovo Liberation Army fighters of brutal crimes, Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova, President of the newly established Kosovo Relocated Specialist Judicial Institution (KRSJI), the special Court set up to prosecute these allegations, announced the approval of the court’s rules of procedure and evidence, which means that the Court is almost ready to issue its first indictments.

Simone Veil, French politician and Holocaust survivor, passed away on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the ICC, leaving a legacy in the fight for human rights.

The Coalition pays tribute to an inspirational figure

The Coalition requests ministers of the ICC Network to use the Rome Statute and ICC commemoration as an opportunity to strengthen essential support for the Court, which is consistent with the fundamental objectives of this Network.

Read the letter from William Pace, Coalition Convenor


Around the world

Crisis Group has highlighted the need to engage armed groups in Myanmar peace talks, as rights groups and witnesses report that tens of Rohingya women were raped in May by national security forces.

A new report by Amnesty International on the situation in South Sudan, has shown that in addition to murders, abductions, torture and rapes towards civilians, both government and opposition forces are using food as a weapon of war.

A French judge has been appointed to lead new UN investigation into possible war crimes committed in Syria since 2011, which is seen as “a critical part of the long march to justice for Syria’s victims” by Human Rights Watch.


Which international justice news stories caught your eye this week? Let us know in the comment box below, or on Twitter with the hashtag #GlobalJustice.