Africa should have its own court: Deputy Pres

Monday, March 31, 2014

Pretoria - Although South Africa supports the International Criminal Court (ICC), the continent should have its own court, with discussions on the court due to be held in September, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Monday.

“Africa needs its own court vested with universal jurisdiction  over the three core international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes,” said the Deputy President, who presented a public lecture on human rights and democratisation in Africa.

The African court, he said, is not envisaged as a substitute for the ICC.

“Such a court will be able to refer matters to the ICC in cases where it experiences innate limitations. The African Court should be so structured that in the event that the victims feel thwarted in their efforts for justice they can indeed proceed to petition the ICC.”

There is a perception that the ICC is biased against Africans with such accusation having been met with a formal endorsement by the African Union (AU).

“Selective prosecution is among accusations thrown at the face of the ICC,” said Deputy President Motlanthe, adding that what was concerning for many African states is the “double standards” on display when powerful Western nations commit political crimes for which African leaders are prosecuted.

The Deputy President added that efforts are afoot for the jurisdiction of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights to extend to the three core international crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes).

“The commission dealing with this process decided to also include crimes contained in other AU instruments e.g. corruption, terrorism and unconstitutional changes of government.

“There were long debates on whether the other crimes, apart from the core international crimes, must be included, many states feeling that this should not be the case. The Commission could not be moved and interpreted Summit’s decision to the effect that they must be included.

“It appears that the negotiations will now again be re-opened in September. In the light of all these development my view is as the negotiations have now stalled, it will take some time to finalise a text,” said Deputy President Motlanthe, who was speaking at the University of Pretoria.

Should an agreement on the text be reached, it must be ratified by at least 15 member States of the AU to enter into force.

If the new structure is established, it may be called the African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights. -

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