#GlobalJusticeWeekly – Immunity proposal for possible African Court expansion to be considered at 23rd AU summit

African presidents will decide whether to include immunity for sitting heads of state and senior government officials in the proposed expansion of the African Court during the 23rd AU summit in June. 

Early this week, African justice ministers and attorney generals approved a draft plan to include immunity for sitting heads of state and other senior government officials in a proposal to expand the African Court on Justice and Human Rights, giving it criminal jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. African presidents will consider the immunity proposal at the 23rd African Union summit later this month.

African attorney generals also recommended that the International Court of Justice be asked to make an advisory opinion on the issue of immunity for heads of state under international law.


Last month, over 40 civil society groups expressed their opposition to the inclusion of immunity in proposed expansion of the African Court. “Insulating heads of state and senior government officials alleged to have committed serious crimes from trial is outrageous,” said Stephen Lamony, the Coalition’s senior adviser on AU, UN and Africa situations. “Africa should be moving forward in the fight against impunity, not regressing.”

Central African Republic

Human Rights Watch called for an independent investigation into the alleged enforced disappearance of 11 people by Burundian peacekeepers in the CAR. Human Rights Watch also urged the CAR authorities and international peacekeepers to allow Muslim residents to seek protection in neighboring countries.  A Catholic Church official blamed peacekeepers for failing to stop an attack on a Bangui church. Meanwhile, the prime minister of the CAR called for a nationwide voluntary disarmament.

The schedule for confirmation of charges proceedings against Jean-Pierre Bemba and four others accused of witness tampering was pushed back.


Human Rights Watch told the Institute for War & Peace Reporting that Kenya’s proposed amendments to the Rome Statute are unlikely to be approved, but Kenyan officials are confident that they will pass. ICC judges will allow William Ruto to file a motion of “no case to answer” after the prosecution concludes its case. Judges also excused Ruto from attending the first two days of trial proceedings in when they restart in June. An ICC judge criticized the Kenyan government for relying on the principle of sovereignty to influence judges’ decision.

Meanwhile, Raila Odinga called for the arrest of the gunmen that shot at a former Mungiki leader associated with the ICC cases. A Kenyan journalist argued that Kenya should adopt local conflict resolution mechanisms like Rwanda did after the 1994 genocide, and Radio Netherlands Worldwide asked Ruto’s defense counsel what he would do if a family member of his was a victim of Kenya’s post-election violence.


Sudan’s Umma Party said that the government’s use of the so-called Rapid Defense Force militias is unconstitutional. North Darfur tribal leaders whose groups have fought with one another in recent years met to sign a peace deal.

Democratic Republic of Congo

The ICC transferred three Congolese witnesses who claimed asylum in the Netherlands into the custody of Dutch authorities. The Congolese government accused Rwanda of protecting M23 leaders allegedly responsible for war crimes.


Libya asked ICC judges for more time to respond to the Court on its outstanding obligations due to recent attacks on the government and an upcoming June election. Libya’s new government claimed that it has assumed power, but the outgoing prime minister refused to step aside.


International Crisis Group wrote to the UN Security Council urging them to create a UN-led mediation mechanism for Mali, arguing that recent clashes show that that the country’s crisis is unresolved.

Preliminary Examinations

The next round of peace talks between Colombia and the FARC will center on victims and reparations. The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) analyzed the impact of Colombia’s presidential election on the peace talks.

Nigeria court-martialed 15 military officers for supplying aid and arms to the Boko Haram. The insurgent group killed at least 200 people in northeast Nigeria in an attack that the Nigerian military reportedly had warning of but failed to stop. Dozens of villagers were killed in a Boko Haram attack in northeast Nigeria, while a bombing killed 14.

In a policy paper, the National Helsinki Committee criticized the failure to investigate alleged war crimes in the 2008 Georgia-Russia War. The president of the Georgia breakaway region of Abkhazia resigned after a week of unrest. South Ossetia’s leader said that the breakaway region is in the preparatory stages of joining the Russian Federation and will push actively to join Russia at the ‘appropriate time’.

draft resolution in the Ukraine parliament would ask the ICC to investigate an alleged Ukrainian airstrike on an administrative building in Lagansk on 2 June. Russia called for the alleged use of ‘inhumane’ weapons in eastern Ukraine to be investigated.

Geoffrey Nice was named as a legal representative of Mavi Marmara victims.

Campaign for Global Justice

The Coalition for the ICC called for Haiti to join the ICC.

What else is happening?

Physicians for Human Rights will host several panels and a film screening at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice will also be hosting and participating in several events. A schedule of summit events involving other Coalition members is available online. ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda released a policy paper on sexual and gender-based crimes. Women’s Initiatives welcomed the release of the paper.

Amnesty International condemned the summary execution of 15 civilians, including children, in northern Syria. ICTJ’s David Tolbert wrote that impunity is the main obstacle to democratic transitions in the Middle East and North Africa.

The New York Times reported that the United States has increased its cooperation with the ICC, but some experts say that the US’s ad hoc support could politicize and undermine the credibility of international justice. AMICC responded to the piece, noting that US support for the ICC is hampered by domestic legislation and calling for a more consistently applied US policy towards the Court. 

The attorney general of Botswana was announced as a candidate for president of the Assembly of States Parties. Philippine Senator Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago stepped down as an ICC judge due to health concerns.