#GlobalJustice Weekly - AU elects Commission chair, talks ICC | UN Syria resolution

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African Union elects new Commission chair, ICC on Summit agenda

In a decision that could have far-reaching implications for policies affecting international justice - and ultimately peace and security - on the African continent, the African Union elected its new Commission chairperson this Monday.

Chadian Foreign Affairs Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat was elected during the 28th AU Summit in Addis Ababa after seven rounds of voting. He will replace outgoing AU Commission chief since 2012 Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa.

Many looked to the election of a new Commission chairperson as a sign of what policies to expect from African states moving forward, not least on the question of the AU relationship with the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Burundi, South Africa and Gambia - all AU member states - last year signaled their intent to withdraw from the ICC on the heels of a campaign by some AU states for mass withdrawal. But the issue is far from settled, as states like Senegal, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire reportedly continued to voice resistance to the proposal during the Summit.

Hailing from Chad, an ICC member state since 2007, the new AU Commission chairperson now has an opportunity to take the lead in reinvigorating the early support by African states that proved so crucial to the Court’s establishment.

Members of civil society working to ensure international justice for victims of atrocities throughout the continent have pointed to the need for strong leaders - leaders who elevate the rights of their people over regional politics and their personal interests, including on the issue of head-of-state immunity in the case of the worst crimes.

“We cannot accept immunity, even if you are a leader, or a simple citizen,” said the Malian national Coalition for the ICC. “The ICC is for all the world. In Africa, the problem is not Africans. [The problem is] African leaders, not all, but some.”

UN resolution on accountability in Syria: updates expected

On 21 December 2016, after numerous failures of the United Nations Security Council to take action on the harrowing conflict in Syria, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution establishing an international and independent mechanism to help investigate and prosecute those responsible for atrocities in Syria since March 2011. Many will look to the Secretary-General's 4 February report on the resolution's implementation for signs of how the mechanism can achieve accountability.

As envisioned, the mechanism will collect and analyze evidence of international humanitarian and human rights law violations and prepare files to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings, whether they occur at the national, regional or international levels.


ICC Investigations

Uganda: In former LRA commander Dominic Ongwen’s ongoing ICC trial, victims speak about their need for justice and what form reparations should take

DRC: The ICC recently expanded the definition of war crimes to cover combatants in the same armed forces - now former rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda has appealed the decision

Darfur, Sudan: Don’t let Sudan off the hook when atrocities haven’t ended, urges Enough Project founder 

ICC Preliminary Examinations

Afghanistan: US judge gives go-ahead to former detainees, sets June trial for psychologists facing torture and war crimes allegations for design of now-defunct interrogation program

Nigeria: Child brides who have escaped Boko Haram captivity speak, and how they continue to feel the impact of forced marriage as a weapon of war 

Colombia: ICC prosecutor flags key principle that gave as landmark Bemba judgment last year, warns that ICC will step in if military & guerrilla commanders aren't effectively prosecuted as part of transitional justice


Campaign for Global Justice

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda urges supporters to rally if United States President Trump withdraws whatever cooperation the non-ICC member state has managed to provide

Under the Responsibility to Protect, international obligations must be at the heart of our thinking as more around the world call on the most powerful countries to take a lead in preventing genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the US and the UK

Recent precedent of international terrorism cases before civilian courts: can added confidence in rule of law contribute to defendants' willingness to cooperation with the investigation or prevention of further crimes?

Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, Switzerland to try former Gambian minister, suspected of crimes under former president's repressive rule, following complaint by Trial International


Around the World

Justice in Myanmar: What can the international community do?

Philippines police halt anti-drug crackdown amid rogue police scandal; claims massive purge of police involved in crimes on the horizon

Rapid growth of Uganda IDP camp reflects the ongoing crisis in South Sudan, which UN has warned could be on the verge of genocide - UN, AU and regional partners call for immediate cessation of hostilities

New Gambia deputy leader had previously vowed to prosecute ex-ruler Jammeh for former regime crimes, which include allegations of extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary detention

Syria's East Ghouta residents say they will refuse any government deal that will lead to their displacement, claiming they are being “forcefully displaced”

Sri Lanka activists advocate for the paramount importance of justice, accountability, victims rights and openness in solving country’s continuing bouts of internal violence and instability