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Africa and ICC

Africa and the International Criminal Court Conference

The South African-German Centre for Transnational Criminal Justice, a cooperation between the University of the Western Cape and Humboldt University Berlin funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), hosted the Africa and the International Criminal Court Conference on 22 and 23 November 2013 at the Protea Hotel in Sea Point.

The conference’s aim over the two days was to improve the framework for the prosecution of human rights violations in Africa.

The conference brought together African experts in the field, including promising young African lawyers and outstanding international practitioners and academics. It focussed on the controversies surrounding the prosecution of crimes outside Africa in both international and domestic courts, and with African approaches to addressing serious human rights violations.

The conference was necessitated by claims that ICC bias against the continent continue to rise, given that all the cases currently being heard by the ICC come from Africa. This, and many other aspects of the ICC and its operations, were addressed at the Conference by some of the leading role players in the field of international criminal law, including Judge Sanji Mmasenono (Judge and First Vice-President of the International Criminal Court), former ICC vice-president, Prof Rene Blattmann, Chief Justice Sam Rugege of the  Rwandan Supreme Court, and Humboldt University’s Prof Gerhard Werle, one of the leading scholars in the field of international criminal law and one of the two Co-Directors of the Centre, whose textbook The Principles of International Criminal Law is regularly cited by ICC judges.

Day one of the conference looked at the international or extra-territorial approaches to prosecuting crimes committed in Africa under international law.

The second day of the conference focused on African alternatives to international and extra-territorial prosecutions, including the prosecution of crimes under international law by states within the territory in which the crime was committed.

Judge Sanji Mmasenono started her address by saluting the young and gifted African men and women who were in attendance, whom she was told are amongst the best minds on the continent. “I would like to thank UWC and the South African-German Centre for Transnational Criminal Justice for allowing me the opportunity to speak at this conference.”

Judge Mmasenono commented on the allegation that the ICC is being racist. “It is absolutely inaccurate to call the ICC racist. We reject that,” she said.

She also mentioned some of the challenges the ICC faces. “We are facing challenges with amendments, with the lengths of ICC proceedings, as well as with finance - this is a painful one. Top prosecutions need quality workers, and this costs money. We are trying our utmost best to speed up proceedings and make things work better at the ICC.”

In conclusion, she said that when all of these issues are resolved, the ICC will have a prosperous future.

Lastly, Mmasenono said that politicians take advantage of the people’s lack of understanding of the work of the court. “People’s lack of understanding is often taken advantage of, and through our outreach programme people are educated and made aware of this,” she said.