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Journalists for Justice / 13 July 2017

Who We are

Journalists for Justice is a non-partisan project of the International Commission of Jurists, ICJ (Kenya Chapter) established in 2011 to promote the twin goals of i) combating all forms of impunity arising from the Post-Election Violence that afflicted Kenya in 2008 by promoting a balanced discussion of the international criminal justice system in the media and ii) advocating justice and reparations for victims of that violence.

 

The Project achieves these goals through public information programmes on the work of the international criminal court and other specialist tribunals; media training and outreach programmes; media monitoring and research, media advocacy, materials development and information dissemination activities and victim support programmes.

 

Our mission 

The mission of Journalists for Justice is to promote robust public discussion of ways to end the impunity associated with violations of humanitarian law in Kenya; to advocate justice for all victims of international crimes and to work with other people of goodwill who share the same values.

 

Our vision 

The vision of Journalists for Justice is to be the leader in mobilizing and leveraging local and international expertise to transform the way Kenyans see and understand international criminal justice by providing them with reliable and usable information about the performance of international criminal justice systems, among them the ICC and its role in achieving justice for victims of post-election violence, as well as the proposed International Crimes Division of the High Court of Kenya.

 

Our research and analysis will inform and transform our clients’ understanding and appreciation of the complementarities between national and international systems of justice.

 

Project justification 

Journalists for Justice has its roots in the AU-brokered 2008 agreement to end post-election violence. That agreement included the formation of the Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence that investigated and then detailed widespread human rights abuses, systematic violence and murder and mass displacements. 

 

The Commission blamed the Government of Kenya for failing to provide leadership, for being partisan and failing to investigate cases of public employees who had committed offences, especially the state security agents -- the administrative police, the regular police, and members of the General Service Unit (GSU). 

 

Noting the systematic nature of the resulting impunity, the Commission recommended the establishment of a “Special Tribunal for Kenya” to try the primary suspects of the violence and to end impunity. A sealed addendum to the main report containing a list of the suspected main perpetrators of the post-election violence was handed over to Kofi Annan with the recommendation that if local efforts to set the Special Tribunal did not materialise, the list be handed over to the Chief Prosecutor of International Criminal Court. When legislative efforts to establish the Special Tribunal collapsed in 2009 Kofi Annan handed over the names to the International Criminal Court, ICC, Chief Prosecutor. 

 

The project arose from the work of the International Criminal Court in Kenya. Though opinion polls had consistently shown strong popular support for the ICC, there was poor public understanding of international criminal justice generally and of the work of the ICC in particular. 

 

This poor understanding bred misconceptions, politicisation and self-serving propaganda about what ICC was doing, how it got involved with Kenya, what the obligations of those indicted were, the role of victims in the courts work, the safety of witnesses and their families and, more generally, what the legal issues involved in the case really were.

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By Terry Jeff Odhiambo

Gambia stands as a testament to the glacial progress Africa is making in the sphere of human rights. With the country on the mend and efforts under way to bring former President Yahya Jammeh to justice, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights could scarcely have found a better host country to hold its 30th anniversary.

The celebrations in Banjul, between November 1 and 4, 2017, come at a time of hope and restoration for the Gambia after the end of Jammeh’s 22-year dictatorial regime. Jammeh’s government was notorious for its disregard of international human rights norms despite ironically hosting the ACHPR. Arbitrary arrests, threats, enforced disappearances and torture were commonplace. There is still plenty of room for improvement. Attorney General Abubacarr Tambadou, who is also Justice Minister, told the opening of the 35th Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 61st Ordinary Session of the ACHPR that notwithstanding the various strides made by nations in the application of human rights instruments, the full enjoyment of basic rights and freedoms since the adoption of the African Charter, continues to face challenges. The Justice minister reiterated that the new government of Gambia had reaffirmed its commitment to protecting human rights and to living up to its position as the human rights capital of Africa. As recently as September 2017 the Gambia, signed five international treaties on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, including the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which seeks to abolish abolition the death penalty. In the coming months, Gambia is committed to ratifying more human rights treaties, including the Convention against Torture, and adopting a new republican constitution within the shortest time possible and developing a system of justice that can look into past atrocities and sustain its democracy. The NGOs Forum, which is usually held on the margins of the ACHPR Ordinary Sessions, is a platform for fostering collaboration between civil society organisations on the one hand and the ACHPR on the other, with the aim of promoting and protecting human rights in Africa.

Human rights abuses in Africa are a sad reality. The tableau of human suffering on the continent is scar on humanity’s conscience. From South Sudan[1], to the Central African Republic[2] to Egypt[3] and Ethiopia[4], abuses are increasingly being witnessed more than ever before. As one of the bulwarks against this depressing trend, the work of the ACHPR since its inception calls for evaluation. The promise by states and governments to guarantee human dignity and rights – through almost universal endorsement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ever-increasing ratification of international human rights treaties – seems to have had little impact on the daily lives of millions of people in the region.

The sad reality is that the human rights situation in various African countries continues to deteriorate on the ACHPR’s watch. There has been an escalation of threats to the enjoyment of human rights on the continent, ranging from arbitrary arrests, infringement of freedom of association and assembly, police brutality and threats to human rights defenders. 

Since the inception of the ACHPR, seven states have never reported on the situation of human rights to the commission. The states -- Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia and South Sudan -- continue to witness some of gravest human rights violations on the continent. Twenty other states have three or more pending state reports -- including Gambia, while 16 other states have one or two pending state reports. Only nine states, namely Kenya, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger and South Africa are up to date with their state reporting obligations. The Democratic Republic of Congo[5], Rwanda[6] and Niger[7] are set to report during the 61st Ordinary Session of the ACHPR. State reporting procedure is a stock taking that serves as a forum for constructive dialogue and enables the Commission to monitor implementation of the African Charter and identify challenges impeding the realisation of the objects of the African Charter.

Some of the critiques that the Commission has received over time include the failure to implement its findings, such as decisions on: individual communications, concluding observations on State reports, country and thematic resolutions, and recommendations made in relation to missions to countries. 

The 61st Ordinary Session of the ACHPR will see the swearing in of new commissioners and the exit of those whose terms have ended. The ACHPR is composed of 11 Commissioners, who are “chosen from amongst African personalities of the highest reputation, known for their high morality, integrity, impartiality and competence in matters of human and peoples’ rights; particular consideration being given to persons having legal experience” (African Charter, Article 31).[8] They are elected by the African Union Assembly from experts nominated by States parties to the Charter. The Commissioners serve in their personal capacity and are elected for a six-year renewable term.

The upcoming 30th Anniversary celebrations are an opportunity to reaffirm the values and enduring principles enshrined in the African Charter mobilize people around the continent, and take stock of human rights today in Africa. 

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 Kenya's Chief Justice,David Maraga has asked the Kenyan police for the protection of the Judiciary.

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Kenyan police have a long history of using excessive force against protesters, especially in the western counties such as Kisumu, Siaya, Migori, and Homabay, where Odinga has had solid support for over 20 years.


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