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Geographies of justice: immunity and the African Court
Date: 20 - 21 November 2014
Time: 09h00 - 18h00
Venue: Hilton Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The debate about immunity for heads of state as recently proposed by the African Union has overshadowed the role of the African Court of Justice, Human and Peoples Rights in adjudicating these crimes.

This workshop explored the full scope of the proposed criminal jurisdiction of the African Court. It considered the central tensions facing the court by exploring the place of immunity in international law and the current status of international tribunals with regard to immunity for government officials.

The workshop also contextualised the African Court project in relation to the indictments by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the extradition of African heads of state to The Hague.

The workshop was chaired by Ademola Abass, Head of the African Centre for Peace and Security Training and the ISS office in Addis Ababa, along with Charles Jalloh, Associate Professor of Law at Florida International University and Kamari Clarke, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Speakers were:

  • Ademola Abass, ISS Addis Ababa
  • Charles Jalloh, Florida International University, US
  • Kamari Clarke, University of Pennsylvania, US
  • Don Deya, Pan African Lawyer’s Union
  • Siba Grovogui, Cornell University, US
  • Phakiso Mochokchoko, Office of the Prosecutor, ICC
  • Adewale Edoho, AU Commission
  • Meg deGuzman, Temple University, US
  • James Stewart, University of British Columbia
  • Barney Afako, Conciliation Resources, London
  • Ignaz Stegmiller, Giessen University, Netherlands
  • Dominique Mystris, University of London, UK
  • Justice Maria Do Ceu Monteiro Silva, ECOWAS Court of Justice
  • Robert Eno, Registry, African Court
  • Godfrey Musila, South Sudan Inquiry

Some 70 participants, mostly from the diplomatic community in Addis Ababa, engaged with academic, policy and legal experts. Speakers navigated the historical application of universal jurisdiction and extradition in international customary law, the relevance of international criminal law in Africa and the expansion of the African court to include criminal jurisdiction, core and transnational crimes, issues of complementarity, and matters related to the obstacles and possibilities for pursuing justice in African regional and sub-regional courts.

Participants critically assessed the prospects for justice in Africa in all its complexity. Don Deya, CEO of the Pan African Lawyer’s Union, reflected on the frenzy of law-making processes at the African Union, with the passing of over 50 treaties since 1963, 28 of which have been passed since 2000, which amounts to an average of 1.5 new legal treaties per year. He argued that the six new treaties passed in Malabo in 2014 might turn out to be more profound in their short-term effect than the protocol for the African Court.

Keynote speaker and co-convenor of the workshop, Prof Charles Jalloh provided an accurate summary of the discussions when he stated that, ‘… the African Union’s adoption of the Malabo protocol offers several important opportunities for African States to finally be able to discharge their responsibilities with respect to the prosecution of serious international crimes on the continent – this is a potential new mechanism that is useful, vital, and an imperative for Africa.’

This workshop was made possible with funding from Government of Japan and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The ISS is also grateful for support from the members of the ISS Partnership Forum: the governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the USA.
Hilton Hotel
Addis Ababa
Ademola Abass
Phone: +251 11 515 6320
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