Malawi’s renowned human rights and governance activist Timothy Mtambo challenged African leaders, lawyers, and civil society leaders on the continent to declare war against impunity for the gravest crimes of international concern if Africa is to become a better place to live in.
The outspoken Mtambo, who is also the executive director of Malawi’s Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), made these remarks during the 16th annual SADC Lawyers Association Conference and General Meeting currently underway at Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre in Dares Salaam, Tanzania.
The meeting is being held under the theme “Using the Law to strengthen good governance practices and to facilitate socio, economic and political transformation in the SADC region”.
Said Mtambo: “Fighting impunity requires not only time and determination. It also requires political support and commitment. Let’s all directly participate in the fight against impunity for the gravest crimes so that those responsible for war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity –whoever they are and wherever they are – can be held accountable for crimes that gravely offend human dignity and human rights. Such a participation can be partly reflected in our joining of hands.”
Presenting on the topic “the proposed criminal jurisdiction mandate for the African Court, Progress or Regression in handling international crimes in Africa”, Mtambo called on the African leaders to rise up and champion international justice rather than impeding on it.
“African leaders should ultimately be assessed by their commitment to enhance the values of democracy, and justice for the victims of serious crimes- not by their unrepentant efforts at nurturing the culture of impunity at the expense of the rights of the citizens.
“ The notion that political power can be a safe haven for impunity would create dangerous double standard. After all, 2002 judgement of the international court of justice emphasized that the immunity enjoyed by certain senior state officials does not mean impunity in respect of crimes they may have committed, especially the gravest crimes,” argued Mtambo.
Added CHRR executive director: “Immunity from serious crimes of international concern like crimes against humanity and genocide has no place under both treaty and customary international law. As a matter of treaty law, personal and functional immunities may not shield an official from accountability from violations of international criminal law.”
Mtambo cited the ICC statute, statutes of the International Criminal Tribunal of former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) both created by the UN Security Council, and the prosecution of Charles Taylor before the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCL) as evidence in support of the existence of a rule of customary international law voiding such immunities, arguing that all these include provisions asserting jurisdiction over state officials regardless of any conflicting doctrines of immunity
Speaking earlier in a keynote address Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete blasted the International Criminal Court (ICC) for allegedly targeting African leaders.
“ICC should immediately stop prosecuting African leaders. There is quite a number of European leaders with dubious record of crimes against humanity but they are neither questioned nor stand trials, adding that African leaders were dragged to court for lighter offences,” argued Kikwete.
Reacting to Kikwete’s accusations, Legal and Human Rights Centre executive director Dr. Helen Kijo Bisimba said it was not the ICC that goes to Africa but African countries themselves that present their cases to an organization they were willing to join.
Meanwhile, President of SADC Lawyers Association Gilbert Caldeira said there was need to publicly and bodly advocate human rights for the enactment of law that would bridge the gap between the rulers and the citizenry.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :