Civil society organizations (CSOs) have asked the Government of Uganda to arrest and surrender President Al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court to face trial for alleged perpetration of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes in Darfur.
The Government of Uganda is said to be hosting President Al Bashir on an official State Visit from the 13th -15th of November 2017, at least seven years after the International Criminal Court issued two warrants of arrest against him on March 4, 2009 and July 12, 2010.
In a press statement issued on November 13, 2017 the six CSOs cited the obligations under international and domestic laws that ties down Uganda to arresting and surrendering President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan should he be found on Ugandan territory.
Uganda is a State Party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court having signed the treaty on 17 March 1999, and ratified it on 14 June 2002. Uganda has further domesticated the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court through the International Criminal Court Act, of 2010, which contains provisions that set out obligations for close cooperation with the court regarding the arrest and surrender of persons for whom arrest warrants have been issued.
As a state party to the Rome Statute, Uganda has an unequivocal obligation to cooperate with the ICC in relation to the enforcement of warrants of arrest issued against Omar Bashir, which stem from the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1593, whereby the United Nations Security Council urged States to cooperate fully’ with the ICC.
In May 2016, Omar Bashir travelled to Uganda to attend the Inauguration Ceremony of President Yoweri Museveni. Despite the clear obligations to cooperate with the Court, Uganda did not arrest Omar Al-Bashir and surrender him to the ICC to face trial. Consequently, the Pretrial Chamber of the ICC found Uganda to have failed to comply with its duty to arrest and surrender Omar Al-Bashir to the Court, in accordance with article 89(1) of the Rome Statute, and referred Uganda to the Assembly of State Parties and the UN Security Council.
Article 27 of the Rome Statute disregards the official capacities of Heads of state and states that immunities of Heads of States are of no consequence to the court’s processes. The Pretrial Chamber of the ICC in proceedings to determine whether Uganda had contravened its obligations, under the Rome Statute by failing to arrest Bashir when he was in its territory in May 2016, reiterated that the UN Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, had effectively lifted the immunities of Omar Al-Bashir in Resolution 1593(2005), and therefore a State (Uganda) could not invoke immunities as a justification for failure to arrest and surrender Bashir to the ICC.
Uganda also has obligations under the Constitutive Act of the African Union that obliges states to take measures to fight impunity; this is in addition to obligations under the Great Lakes Protocols that call upon states to arrest and surrender persons who may have committed serious crimes.Further, inviting an international criminal suspect to Uganda not only undermines the fight against impunity which Uganda has for long championed but also betrays the concerns and interests of the Victims of the most heinous crimes.
They urge the government of Uganda to fulfill its obligations under international and domestic laws by arresting and surrendering President Omar Al Bashir should he be found on Ugandan territory. They also call upon the President of Uganda and other Government representatives to support the ICC in its endeavor to fight impunity and achieve global justice. Finally, they urge the Government of Uganda to maintain a consistent approach to its already existing and embraced commitments to Rome Statute System.
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, to the Central African Republic to Egypt and Ethiopia, 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, Rwanda and Niger 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). 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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