The conviction of Hissène Habré by the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegalese Courts: Bringing justice in cases of serious human rights violations in AfricaPosted: 30 June, 2016
Author: Juan Pablo Pérez-León-Acevedo
Vice-Chancellor Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria
On 30 May 2016, the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal (EAC) found the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré criminally responsible for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture. The EAC condemned Hissène Habré to life in prison. The EAC indicated that the defence would have 15 days to appeal the conviction. Accordingly, the defence lawyers proceeded to appeal the conviction on 10 June 2016. During the trial that started on 20 July 2015 and ended on 11 February 2016, 96 witnesses, victims and experts participated, and 5600 transcript pages and over 56 exhibits were examined. The trial concerned crimes committed in Chad between 7 June 1982 and 1 December 1990, which corresponded to Habré’s rule. The EAC Trial Chamber convicted Habré, as a member of a joint criminal enterprise (involving, among others, directors of his political police aka the Direction de la documentation et de la sécurité (Documentation and Security Directorate (DSS)), of crimes against humanity of rape, sexual slavery, murder, summary execution, kidnapping followed by enforced disappearance, torture and inhumane acts committed against the Hadjerai and Zaghawa ethnic groups, the inhabitants of southern Chad and political opponents. As a member of a joint criminal enterprise, Habré was also convicted of torture. Additionally, the Chamber convicted Habré, under the modality of superior or command liability, of the war crimes of murder, torture, inhumane treatment and unlawful confinement committed against prisoners of war (international armed conflict), and of the war crimes of murder, torture and cruel treatment (non-international armed conflict). War crimes were examined, on the one hand, in the context of the non-international armed conflict between the Forces Armées Nationales du Tchad (National Armed Forces of Chad (FANT)) and the Gouvernment d’Union Nationale de Transition (Transitional Government of National Unity (GUNT)), and, on the other one, in the context of the international armed conflict between Libya, allied to the GUNT, and Chad supported by France and the United States. Nevertheless, the Chamber acquitted Habré of the war crime of unlawful transfer.
The idea of an African passport and the freedom of movement of persons in the continent: Only wishful thinking?Posted: 22 February, 2016
Author: Cristiano d’Orsi
Post-Doctoral Researcher and Lecturer, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria (South Africa)
“Hail! United States of Africa-free!
Hail! Motherland most bright, divinely fair!
State in perfect sisterhood united,
Born of truth; mighty thou shalt ever be.”
This is the incipit of the poem Hail, United States of Africa, composed in 1924 by M.M. Garvey, a famous Pan-Africanist leader.
In 2002, at the launch of the African Union (AU), President T. Mbeki, its first chairman, proclaimed that: “By forming the Union, the peoples of our continent have made the unequivocal statement that Africa must unite! We as Africans have a common and a shared destiny!”
After that occasion, the concept of USAf has been highlighted in a more concrete way by other African leaders, such as A.O. Konaré in 2006, M. Gaddafi in 2009 –the first to mention the possibility to issue a unique passport for the entire continent- and, more recently, by R. Mugabe.
The right to life in Africa: General Comment No. 3 on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ RightsPosted: 10 February, 2016
Author: Paul Ogendi
Researcher, Working Group on death penalty and extrajudicial summary or arbitrary killings in Africa, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
During its 57th Ordinary Session held from 4 to 18 November 2015 in Banjul, The Gambia, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) adopted General Comment No. 3 on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (General Comment No. 3) focusing on the right to life.
The document is timely because the protection of the right to life is currently under threat globally. Africa is no exception.
The Commission in 2012 expanded the work of one of its working groups focusing on the right to life to include not just death penalty but also extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings in Africa.
Some of the salient features of the new General Comment are discussed below.
Author: Satang Nabaneh
Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of The Gambia.
There is nothing more powerful than a decision made at the right time, especially one which is a desideratum. So it was with the ban on female genital mutilation (FGM) in The Gambia. From the coastal village of Brufut, on the chilly night of 24 November 2015, President Jammeh declared a ban on FGM stating that it was a cultural and not a religious practice (that is not to say that the practice would have been justifiable if it was a religious practice, given its well documented harmful effects). The news was as unexpected as it was music to the ear. It was every campaigner’s wish, to see an end to FGM in The Gambia. This was swiftly followed by the passing of the Women’s (Amendment) Bill 2015 by the National Assembly on 2 December 2015 to prohibit female circumcision. The amendment addresses one of the key deficiencies of the Women’s Act 2010 which was the absence of a provision on eliminating harmful traditional practices. The Amendment Act added sections 32A and 32B in the Women’s Act. With the enactment, The Gambia joined a number of African countries in adopting legislation as a reform strategy for ending FGM.
Reacting to the growing attitude of African leaders in using politics as an engine to flout judicial authoritiesPosted: 18 September, 2015
As a young person growing up in The Gambia, enjoying relatively peaceful personal development and knowing little or nothing about the Continent (i.e. Africa), I was optimistic of what the future holds for us. My optimism has somewhat changed after recently following some developments unfolding in the Continent. I became more skeptical when I listened to the African-born Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda making exposition to the Darfur situation. She frustratingly advanced that:
“Innocent civilians continue to bear the brunt of insecurity and instability, in particular as a result of what appears to be an on-going government campaign to target them. The people alleged to be most responsible for these on-going atrocities are the same people against whom warrants of arrest have already been issued.”
These words made me more concerned that the political and legal atmosphere in Africa is becoming unsafe for human shelter. The friction between the two has become too chaotic and toxic for a peaceful and orderly coexistence. The breeze blowing to my observation is not only hostile to the citizens of the Continent but also to the legal frameworks and judicial institutions created for the implementation and protection of our rights.
Africa, the second most populous continent with the fastest growing population on the globe faces complex and integrated human security threats. From a broader perspective, human security is far more than the absence of violent conflict. It encompasses respect for human rights, good governance, access to education and health care and ensuring that each individual has opportunities and choices to fulfill his or her potential. In Africa, addressing these issues requires alleviating poverty, promoting economic growth, freedom from fear and access to a healthy natural environment as well as and preventing conflict. Characteristically, Africa is associated with war, poverty, genocide, diseases and grievous abuses of human rights, prolonged armed conflicts and rising terrorist activities. Conventionally, the African Union has adopted several instruments to deal with these peace and security threats. This article focuses on increased armed conflicts and terrorist activities on the continent.
The African Youth Charter (Youth Charter) was adopted by African heads of states and government in Banjul, the Gambia on the 2nd of July 2006. Upon the attainment of 15 ratifications as required in article 30(2), the Youth Charter entered into force on 8 August 2009.
As the first international treaty on youth development, the Youth Charter bears a significant place in the protection of the rights of young persons. Although its jurisdictional scope is Africa, the Youth Charter sets a standard for the international community in the development of norms for the protection of young persons. In its ‘Definitions’ section, the Youth Charter sets the age for ‘youth or young people’ within the ages of 15 and 35 years. As at 2014, 36 African Union (AU) states had ratified the Youth Charter while 42 AU states had signed.
The Youth Charter contains 31 provisions and places significant emphasis on human rights. While re-emphasising some of the rights contained in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the Youth Charter goes a step further in providing for the right to gainful employment (article 15); right to rest and leisure (article 22) and the right of youths with disabilities (article 24). Articles 10 and 14 of the Youth Charter offer expositions on the content of the right to development of youths in Africa. Importantly, the Youth Charter obligate state parties to ‘promote and ensure through teaching, education and publication’ (article 27) respect for the rights in the Youth Charter. State parties are further mandated ‘to see to it that these freedoms, rights and responsibilities as well as corresponding obligations and duties are understood’ (article 27). Although the Youth Charter obligate state parties to take ‘necessary steps’ in the realisation of the obligations contained in it (article 1(2)); the Youth Charter does not provide adequate enforcement mechanisms at the regional level.
Some reflections on the current Africa’s project on the establishment of African Court of Justice and Human Right (ACJHR)Posted: 29 June, 2015
It has been more than thirteen years since the ICC was established and started its operation on most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crime against humanity, crimes of war and aggression. The court is established by virtue of the Rome Statute as a permanent international criminal tribunal independent from other UN bodies. To date, all cases that have been investigated by ICC are from Africa. African countries generally have cooperated in the early stages of the establishment of ICC.
Nowadays, however, it seems that the relationship between the ICC and Africa is turning into a growing trend of contention. It has been a point of discussion in the academia and in the international politics as to whether the court is indeed exclusively targeting Africa regardless of their contribution and cooperation in the creation and advancement of ICC. The AU and various leaders in Africa have expressed their dissatisfaction in different occasions that the court is “neo-colonialist policy” or “post-colonial court.” As a result, the AU in 2008 adopted a protocol on the establishment of African Court of Justice and Human Rights (ACJHR). The protocol is being circulated and so far 11 countries have signed the document. Last year at the AU Summit, the current president of Kenya urged for the immediate establishment of the court.
Notwithstanding the current uncertainty about the fate of the Draft Protocol and thereby the establishment of the ACJHR, it is worthwhile to examine some of the challenges and opportunities that the court might face and the future of international criminal justice in Africa.
Corruption is a threat to human rights in that it erodes accountability and results in impunity. Given the interdependence of human rights, the impact of corruption on the whole spectrum of human rights; economic social and cultural rights as well as that of the civil and political rights is significant. It fundamentally distorts the machineries necessary for the realization of human rights namely good governance and rule of law.
Corruption undermines a government’s ability to deliver goods and services. It results in discriminations in the use and enjoyment of human rights. It further undermines the ability of individuals to access justice and corrode their role as active participants in decisions that affect them within the public service. Corruption has a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups such as women, children and the poor as it decreases funds available for the provision of basic services like education, health and social services that these groups are mostly dependent on.