BEIRUT

World

African leaders vote for immunity: AU

African Union President and Mauritanian President Mohammad Ould Abdel-Aziz talking during a press conference on the second day of the 4th EU-Africa summit at the EU Headquarters in Brussels April 3, 2014. (AFP Photo/John Thys)

ADDIS ABABA: The African Union said Friday that it has approved a draft decision to grant leaders immunity in the continental court, a move criticized by rights groups accusing the bloc of promoting impunity.

"Leaders, heads of state (and) senior government officials should not be on trial while they are in office, because the ship of state must continue to be steered," Vincent Nmehielle, AU director for legal affairs, told AFP.

Nmehielle said that all member states agreed unanimously to grant immunity to sitting heads of state at the African Court on Human and Peoples' Right, which is not expected to be operational for several years.

The draft resolution was passed at last month's AU summit in Equatorial Guinea, and prompted outcry from rights groups.

"It's sending a message that rulers are above the law so far as regional crises are concerned," Amnesty International Netsanet Belay told AFP.

African leaders currently indicted by the International Criminal Court include Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, as well as Sudan's Omar al-Bashir.

The AU has slammed the ICC for unfairly targeting Africans, calling the international court "racist," and last October requested for the Kenyan cases to be deferred, a bid rejected by the United Nations.

Nmehielle said that the AU is committed to justice, but that it has the right to its own regional court, and said that the ICC should not focus on African leaders in its pursuit for punishment.

"You will get a backlash, you will not have a cooperative atmosphere from the whole of Africa and no region will give you that cooperation if you keep targeting leaders," he said.

But Belay urged leaders to rethink the resolution, calling it a "serious backwards step."

"The leaders should reconsider the decision they made in this regard and citizens should hold their governments accountable," he said.

The idea of an African regional court was established by the AU in 1998, but has failed to launch as a result of funding shortfalls and debate over its role.

If it becomes operational, it will not necessarily replace the ICC, but could act as a mechanism for justice for countries that are not ICC members.

 

Recommended

Advertisement

Comments

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

Alert: If you are facing problems with posting comments, please note that you must verify your email with Disqus prior to posting a comment. follow this link to make sure your account meets the requirements. (http://bit.ly/vDisqus)

comments powered by Disqus
Summary

The African Union said Friday that it has approved a draft decision to grant leaders immunity in the continental court, a move criticized by rights groups accusing the bloc of promoting impunity.

Nmehielle said that all member states agreed unanimously to grant immunity to sitting heads of state at the African Court on Human and Peoples' Right, which is not expected to be operational for several years.

Nmehielle said that the AU is committed to justice, but that it has the right to its own regional court, and said that the ICC should not focus on African leaders in its pursuit for punishment.


Advertisement

FOLLOW THIS ARTICLE

Interested in knowing more about this story?

Click here