(Johannesburg) - A group of 124 organizations from more than 25 African countries released a declaration today calling on African governments to advance accountability for grave international crimes at the review conference for the International Criminal Court (ICC). The conference, which will take place in Kampala, Uganda from May 31 to June 11, 2010, is being convened to discuss amendments to the court's treaty.
"The civil society declaration is a strong showing of support for positive African government action at the Kampala conference and for the ICC more generally," said Oby Nwankwo, executive director of Nigeria's Civil Resource Development and Documentation Center. "While some leaders have tried to paint Africa as against the ICC, our voices are testament to the fallacy of such claims."
The declaration was developed in consultation with multiple African civil society groups that have collaborated on issues relating to Africa and the ICC over the past year. The declaration does not address proposed amendments to the ICC statute, including aggression, but provides views on other issues of importance for the ICC that will be covered at the conference, such as the impact of justice on victims and cooperation with the court.
The review conference's location in Uganda adds to its significance, as the event can help forge a stronger link between the ICC and Africa, the declaration said. The review conference will also be an important opportunity for victims and civil society to be heard on the ICC.
Governments have the opportunity to make concrete commitments to advance support for the court at the conference in the form of pledges. The declaration urges African states to pledge to assist the ICC, including by working to establish a liaison office at the African Union, and by enacting laws to implement the ICC treaty domestically.
"The Kampala conference offers an exceptional occasion for African governments to help advance the global fight against impunity," said Mohammed Ndifuna, executive director of Human Rights Network-Uganda. "Our leaders should use the conference to restate their commitment to justice for victims and pledge to take steps to assist the ICC."
The signature list for the declaration includes endorsements up through May 24. However, more signatures are expected throughout the conference, and an updated version will be made available once the conference ends.