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A meeting of AU Ministers of Justices in Addis Ababa

A meeting of Ministers of Justice and Attorney Generals of AU Member States on Legal Matters was held in Addis Ababa this week May 14th -15th. It was preceded by a meeting of legal experts May 7th – May 14th. The meeting was attended by the Ministers of Justice of Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Libya, Lesotho, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, the Sudan and South Africa as well as by a number of Attorney-Generals and other legal officials.

The agenda for the meeting included consideration of the Draft Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Assembly of Heads of State and Government requested the African Union Commission to examine the implications of the African Court being empowered to try international crimes such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity as a complement to national jurisdiction and to fight the problem of impunity at a regional level. This arose from the attempt to find a solution to the problems confronting Africa and the African Union and to provide a counter-balance to the “double standard” approach taken by the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

During the meeting, many delegations emphasized the important role the African Court needed to play in international criminal justice. Delegates also agreed on the need for the AU Peace and Security Council to intervene and defer investigations on prosecutions in the interest of peace and security where appropriate. The Ministers adopted the Draft Protocol on the amendment, which, if it comes into force will extend the jurisdiction of the African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights by giving it the mandate to look into serious international crimes including genocide, crimes against humanity, the crime of aggression, corruption and unconstitutional changes of government.    

Another item of discussion was consideration of a draft Protocol to the Constitutive Act of the African Union relating to the Pan-African Parliament. This relates to the Assembly’s efforts to define the powers and functions of the Pan-African Parliament. The Ministers approved the draft prepared with slight amendments. In the draft, the Pan-African Parliament is made responsible for the preparation of legislation when the AU Assembly determines to vest such powers to the Parliament.

The Ministers also discussed Draft Model National Legislation on Universal Jurisdiction. This is aimed to encourage member states to incorporate universal jurisdiction in their respective domestic laws. The progress report of the Commission on the implementation of Assembly Decisions on Universal Jurisdiction and the progress made in the discussions with the European Union and the negotiations at the level of the United Nations as well as the implementation of the Assembly Decisions on the International Criminal Court were also considered.  The legal experts of AU member states were earlier given the task of finding solutions to stop the abuse of the principle of universal jurisdiction by some European countries. These included legal proceedings instituted and warrants of arrest issued against officials of some African countries, including Heads of State, in violation of the immunity of state officials under international law. 

The meeting ended with the adoption of the Draft Protocols on the Amendments to the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights Court and on the Pan-African Parliament as well as the Draft Model Legislation and the recommendations on the implementation of Assembly Decisions on Universal Jurisdiction and ICC. The documents will be submitted to the next meeting of the policy organs of the African Union, in July this year.

Source: A week in the Horn, May, 18, 2012.

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