October 4, 2013

 

—Updated to include additional endorsements on October 10, 2013—

Foreign Ministers

African States Parties to the International Criminal Court

Re: Support for the ICC at African Union (AU) summit on October 11-12

Dear Foreign Minister:

We, the undersigned 163 African civil society organizations and international organizations with representatives in 36 African countries, write to urge your government to affirm its support for the ICC and the court’s treaty, the Rome Statute, during the extraordinary AU summit on the ICC scheduled for October 11-12, 2013.

As you know, the relationship between the ICC and some African governments has faced renewed challenges as the ICC’s cases for crimes committed during Kenya’s post-election violence in 2007-08 have progressed. This has led to the scheduling of the AU extraordinary summit and questions over whether some African ICC statesmay be considering withdrawal from the Rome Statute.

We believe any withdrawal from the ICC would send the wrong signal about Africa’s commitment to protect and promote human rights and reject impunity as reflected in article 4 of the AU’s Constitutive Act. Needless to say, the work and functioning of the ICC should not be beyond scrutiny and improvement. However, considerations of withdrawal risk grave consequences for civilians in Africa, who tend to bear the brunt of serious crimes committed in violation of international law.

The ICC remains the only permanent criminal court with the authority to act when a state with jurisdiction is unable or unwilling to investigate or prosecute. As organizations working within Africa, some on behalf of or alongside victims of international crimes, we see every day the importance of ensuring access to justice. It is also important to note that withdrawal from the Rome Statute would not have a legal impact on the ICC’s existing cases.

A key criticism raised by some African leaders is that the court is targeting Africa. While the ICC’s cases are entirely from Africa, the majority came before the court as a result of requests by the states where the crimes were committed (Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, and Mali). Two other situations—Libya and Darfur, Sudan—were referred by the United Nations Security Council, with the support of its African members. Kenya is the only situation where the ICC Office of the Prosecutor acted on its own initiative, but only with the approval of an ICC pre-trial chamber after Kenya failed to take action to ensure justice domestically.

We recognize that international justice currently operates unevenly across the globe. In some situations, powerful governments are able to shield their citizens and the citizens of their allies from the ICC’s authority by not joining the ICC or using their veto power at the Security Council to block referrals of situations to the court.

We will continue to work with your government and other partners to ensure consistency in the application of international justice, including pressing against double standards at the Security Council. But undercutting justice for crimes where it is possible because justice is not yet possible in all situations risks emboldening those who might commit grave crimes. Working to expand, rather than contract, the membership of the ICC is a key step in widening access to justice and sending the message that no one is above the law.

The ICC’s role in Kenya underscores the court’s role as a crucial court of last resort, and we urge your government to signal support for this process to run its course.

Kenya’s leaders in 2008 initially agreed to set up a special tribunal to try cases related to the post-election violence, which claimed more than 1100 lives, destroyed livelihoods, and displaced more than a half-million people. But when efforts to create the tribunal or to move forward cases in ordinary courts failed, the ICC prosecutor opened an investigation. This had been recommended by a national commission of inquiry set up as part of an African Union-mediated agreement to end the violence.

Although the African Union, at the initiative of Kenya and Uganda, called for a “referral” of the ICC’s cases to a national mechanism in Kenya at its May 2013 summit, such referral is only for the ICC judges to decide on the basis of a legal challenge to the ICC, known as an admissibility challenge. In view of a lack of genuine national investigations and prosecutions, the ICC judges in 2011 rejected a challenge by the Kenyan government in these cases. Even since that decision there have not been serious efforts within Kenya to mount investigations and prosecutions of the post-election violence.

Kenya has put governments in an awkward position by pressing for action to avoid the ICC’s cases for crimes committed in Kenya while having failed to avail itself of the legal procedures for the court to authorize such a move based on credible domestic investigation and prosecution. If adopted, a recent resolution by the Kenyan parliament to repeal the country’s International Crimes Act also would mean that the country would lose an important tool for the domestic prosecution of international crimes.

African states have been some of the most important supporters of the creation and effective functioning of the ICC. African states played an active role at the negotiations to establish the court, and 34 African states—a majority of African Union member states—have now become ICC states parties. As discussed above, African governments have sought the ICC’s assistance to carry out investigations and prosecutions, and Africans are also among the highest-level ICC officials and staff and serve as judges at the court.

In this context, we urge your government to work to ensure support within Africa for the ICC and its critical role in the fight against impunity, including in Kenya. This includes by signaling at AU meetings, in public comments, and in bilateral discussions with other African governments that the court represents a vital instrument in the fight against impunity.

We would welcome the chance to discuss this important issue further and civil society organizations with offices in your country will be in contact to set up a meeting on these matters.

Sincerely,

  1. Amnesty International Benin
  2. Benin Coalition for the International Criminal Court (ICC), Benin
  3. DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, Botswana
  4. Amnesty International Burkina Faso
  5. l'Action des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture au Burundi
  6. Action pour le Droit et le Bien-être de l'Enfant, Burundi
  7. Association of Female Lawyers of Burundi
  8. Burundi Coalition for the ICC, Burundi
  9. Fontaine-ISOKO pour la Bonne Gouvernance et le Développement Intégré, Asbl, Burundi
  10. Forum for Strengthening Civil Society, Burundi
  11. Forum pour la Conscience et le Développement, Burundi
  12. Ligue burundaise des droits de l'Homme, Burundi
  13. Réseau des Citoyens Probes, Burundi
  14. Cameroon Coalition for the ICC, Cameroon
  15. Gender Empowerment and Development, Cameroon
  16. Association of Female Lawyers of Cape Verde
  17. Central African Coalition for the ICC, Central African Republic
  18. Association tchadienne pour la promotion et le défense des droits de l'Homme, Chad
  19. Chad Civil Society Coalition for the ICC, Chad
  20. Ligue tchadienne des droits de l'Homme, Chad
  21. Amnesty International Côte d'Ivoire
  22. Ivorian Coalition for the ICC, Côte d'Ivoire
  23. Ivorian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, Côte d'Ivoire
  24. Ligue ivoirienne des droits de l'Homme, Côte d'Ivoire
  25. Mouvement ivoirien des droits humains, Côte d'Ivoire
  26. Réseau Equitas Côte d'Ivoire
  27. SOS Exclusion, Côte d'Ivoire
  28. Access to Justice, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
  29. Arche d'Alliance, DRC
  30. Centre de Recherche sur l'Environnement, la Démocratie et les Droits de l'Homme, DRC
  31. Christian Activists Actions for Human Rights in Shabunda, DRC
  32. Coalition des Volontaires pour la Paix et le Développement, DRC
  33. Committee of Observers of Human Rights, DRC
  34. Congo Peace Network, DRC
  35. Congolese Foundation for the Promotion of Human Rights and Peace, DRC
  36. Coordination Office of the Civil Society of South Kivu, DRC
  37. Democratic Republic of the Congo National Coalition for the ICC, DRC
  38. Groupe des Hommes Voues au Développement Intercommunautaire, DRC
  39. League for Peace, Human Rights and Justice, DRC
  40. La Ligue des Elécteurs, DRC
  41. Ligue pour la Promotion et le Développement Intégral de la Femme et de l'Enfant, DRC
  42. The Lotus Group, DRC
  43. Promotion de la Démocratie et Protection des Droits Humains, DRC
  44. Réseau des organisations de lutte contre la torture en Afrique centrale, DRC
  45. Solidarité avec les Victimes et pour la Paix, DRC
  46. Solidarité pour la Promotion Sociale et la Paix, DRC
  47. Synergie des ONGs Congolaises pour les Victimes, DRC
  48. Vision GRAM- International, DRC
  49. Vision Sociale asbl, DRC
  50. Voix des Sans Voix pour les Droits de l'Homme, DRC
  51. Eastern Africa Journalists Association, Djibouti
  52. Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and Legal Profession, Egypt
  53. Arab Coalition for the ICC, Egypt
  54. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Egypt
  55. Egyptian Coalition for the ICC, Egypt
  56. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Egypt
  57. Human Rights Concern, Eritrea
  58. The Civil Society Associations Gambia
  59. Coalition For Change, Gambia
  60. Abibiman Foundation, Ghana
  61. Amnesty International Ghana
  62. Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights, Ghana
  63. Communication for Social Change, Ghana
  64. Ghana Center for Democratic Development, Ghana
  65. Media Foundation for West Africa, Ghana
  66. Association des victimes, parents et amis du 28 septembre 2009, Guinea
  67. Organisation guinéenne des droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen, Guinea
  68. Amnesty International Kenya
  69. Civil Society Organization’s Network, Kenya
  70. Independent Medico-Legal Unit, Kenya
  71. International Center for Transitional Justice, Kenya
  72. International Commission of Jurists Kenya
  73. Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice, Kenya
  74. Kituo Cha Sheria, Kenya
  75. Unganisha Wakenya Association, Kenya
  76. Transformation Resource Center, Lesotho
  77. Actions for Genuine Democratic Alternatives, Liberia
  78. Concerned Christian Community, Liberia
  79. Foundation for International Dignity, Liberia
  80. Liberia Research and Public Policy Center, Liberia
  81. National Civil Society Council of Liberia
  82. National Youth Action, Inc., Liberia
  83. Rights and Rice Foundation, Liberia
  84. Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, Malawi
  85. Centre for the Development of People, Malawi
  86. Civil Liberties Committee, Malawi
  87. Church and Society Programme, Malawi
  88. Amnesty International Mali
  89. Association malienne des droits de l'Homme, Mali
  90. Coalition Malienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains, Mali
  91. FEMNET-Mali
  92. Mali Coalition for the ICC, Mali
  93. Association des Femmes Chefs de Familles, Mauritania
  94. Association Mauritanienne des droits de l'Homme, Mauritania
  95. SOS-Esclaves, Mauritania
  96. NamRights, Namibia
  97. Access to Justice, Nigeria
  98. Alliances for Africa, Nigeria
  99. BAOBAB for Women's Human Rights, Nigeria
  100. BraveHeart Initiative for Youth & Women, Nigeria
  101. Centre for Citizens Rights, Nigeria
  102. Centre for Democracy and Development, Nigeria
  103. Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution, Nigeria
  104. Citizens Center for Integrated Development & Social Rights, Nigeria
  105. Civil Liberties Organisation, Nigeria
  106. Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre, Nigeria
  107. Coalition of Eastern NGOs, Nigeria
  108. Human Rights Agenda Network Nigeria
  109. Human Rights Social Development and Environmental Foundation, Nigeria
  110. Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Nigeria
  111. Justice, Development and Peace Commission, Nigeria
  112. Legal Redress and Justice Centre, Nigeria
  113. Legal Resources Consortium, Nigeria
  114. National Coalition on Affirmative Action, Nigeria
  115. Nigeria Coalition for the International Criminal Court, Nigeria
  116. Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Nigeria
  117. West African Bar Association, Nigeria
  118. Engagement for peace and human rights, Republic of the Congo
  119. Human Rights First Rwanda Association, Rwanda
  120. Amnesty International Senegal
  121. Ligue sénégalaise des droits humains, Senegal
  122. Amnesty International Sierra Leone
  123. Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, Sierra Leone
  124. Coalition for Justice and Accountability, Sierra Leone
  125. Amnesty International South Africa
  126. Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa
  127. Co-operative for Research and Education, South Africa
  128. Darfur Solidarity, South Africa
  129. International Crime in Africa Programme, Institute for Security Studies, South Africa
  130. South Africa Forum for International Solidarity, South Africa
  131. Southern Africa Litigation Centre, South Africa
  132. Children Education Society, Tanzania
  133. Services Health & Development for people living positively with HIV/AIDS, Tanzania
  134. Tanzania Pastoralist Community Forum, Tanzania
  135. Amnesty International Togo
  136. Collectif des Associations Contre l'Impunité au Togo
  137. West African Human Rights Network, Togo
  138. Al-Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center, Tunisia
  139. Advocates for Public International Law Uganda
  140. African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, Uganda
  141. Community Development and Child Welfare Initiatives, Uganda
  142. Corruption Brakes Crusade, Uganda
  143. East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Uganda
  144. Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Uganda
  145. Human Rights Network Uganda
  146. Kumi Human Rights Initiative, Uganda
  147. Lango Female Clan Leaders' Association, Uganda
  148. Lira NGO Forum, Uganda
  149. People for Peace and Defence of Rights, Uganda
  150. Soroti Development Association & NGOs Network, Uganda
  151. Uganda Coalition on International Criminal Court, Uganda
  152. Uganda Victims Foundation, Uganda
  153. Women Peace and Security, Uganda
  154. Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, Zambia
  155. Amnesty International Zimbabwe
  156. Counselling Services Unit, Zimbabwe
  157. Coalition for the International Criminal Court, with offices in Benin and the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  158. Enough Project, with offices in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda
  159. Human Rights Watch, with offices in Kenya and South Africa
  160. International Federation for Human Rights, with offices in Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Kenya, and Mali
  161. Parliamentarians for Global Action, with offices in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda
  162. West African Journalists Association, with offices in Mali and Senegal
  163. Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, with offices in Egypt and Uganda