AU should reject impunity

‘AU should reject impunity for leaders’


October 26, 2014 in News

HUMAN rights activists in Zimbabwe have condemned a controversial decision by the African Union to exempt sitting Heads of State from prosecution by a proposed human rights court and urged member States to reject the impunity clause.

RUTENDO MAWERE - own correspondent

Speaking at the Zimbabwe Human Rights Non-Governmental Organisation Forum commemorations of Africa Human Rights Day yesterday, Lloyd Kuvheya, senior legal adviser at the International Commission of Jurists, warned that the impunity arrived at in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, would encourage African Presidents to hold onto power indefinitely to avoid prosecution.

President Robert Mugabe is the world’s fifth longest-ruling leader and African heads of state make up four of the top five worlds’ longest –ruling leaders.

“The African leaders know that the moment they relinquish power, justice will catch up with them. This is perhaps the reason why in Africa we have the phenomenon of seat-tied Presidents,” Kuvheya said.

The amendment is viewed as a major setback in ensuring accountability for serious human rights violations and abuses.

“It undermines the integrity of the AfCJHR [African Court of Justice and Human Rights] before it is operationalised. Furthermore, it is inconsistent with the letter and spirit of article 4 of the AU Constitutive Act, which rejects impunity and promotes the respect for human rights,” Kuvheya said.

African leaders have been fingered in violations of human rights and are not accountable to the people. The rest of the world is stepping up efforts in fighting impunity and making leaders accountable.

Human Rights Watch representative Tiseke Kasambala said besides the impunity clause the amendments in Malabo were the most progressive compared to other instruments used in the world and said it could create African solutions to African problems.

She, however, bemoaned the lack of resources that African leaders pour to support human rights institutions.

“Our leaders are not serious. They are only serious about protecting themselves. They have not taken human rights institutions seriously. The heads of State have not explained how the court will be resourced to ensure it is effective and efficient. I urge African member of States to reject the impunity clause,” Kasambala said.

Proponents to the immunity clause argue that guarantees of immunity might foster co-operation by African leaders with the court to abide by its decisions.

The African court of Justice and Human Rights is intended to replace the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (AFCHPR). The court is to become the main judicial organ of the African Union and predominant human rights court for the African continent.

Speaking on how national laws foster cooperation with international human rights mechanisms, Dzimbabwe Chimbga of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said Zimbabweans should push for accountability from its leaders.

He said the failure by Harare to align its laws with the new Constitution was deliberate as, “Zanu PF has no interest in aligning the laws with the Constitution and they would rather change the law”.

He said Zimbabweans should take the government to court for any law that is inconsistent with the Constitution.