The regional overview for Africa, published in “The State of the World’s Human Rights,” Amnesty International’s report for 2010:
This Sudanese activist reflected the feelings of many in the region when the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued its arrest warrant against President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan in March. President Al Bashir was accused, as indirect perpetrator, of war crimes – specifically attacking civilians and pillaging – and crimes against humanity – specifically for murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape. This was a powerful and welcome signal sent to those suspected of being responsible for gross human rights violations: that nobody is above the law, and that the rights of victims should be upheld.
Members of civil society in Africa frequently stressed the importance of strengthening international justice, and called on the African Union (AU) and its member states to work with the ICC, but in July, the AU Assembly adopted a resolution stipulating it would not collaborate with the Court in surrendering President Al Bashir. The AU also reiterated its request to the UN Security Council to suspend the ICC proceedings against President Al Bashir, and expressed its intention to limit the Prosecutor’s discretion to initiate investigations and prosecutions. Although some AU states seemed to disagree with the position taken by the AU as a whole, their voices were drowned out by the more vocal opponents of the ICC.
The stark contrast from many leaders in Africa between their human rights rhetoric and the absence of concrete action to respect, protect and promote human rights is not new. But hardly ever has it been demonstrated so unequivocally as with their reaction to President Al Bashir’s arrest warrant. This triggered a wide – and still ongoing – debate in Africa on the role of international justice in ensuring accountability for gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.
Sadly, there are numerous other examples from 2009 that demonstrate the lack of political will in Africa to ensure accountability on any scale.
Members of armed opposition groups and government security forces in Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia and Sudan continued to commit human rights abuses with impunity in those parts of the countries affected by armed conflict or insecurity.
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