International law biased against Africa

Saturday August 06 2016

Security chiefs and country delegations at the official opening of the 13th ordinary session of the CISSA conference on August 4, 2016. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA

African intelligence agencies have stepped up efforts to fight what they call “lawfare” — Western-backed indictments of Africans in a politicised justice system.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame led the criticism of the West while opening the 13th ordinary session of the Conference of the Committee of Intelligence (Cissa) in Kigali on Thursday.

“Accountability for crimes is a principle that the African Union endorses, without ambiguity. But politicising justice, and deploying it more or less exclusively against one continent, or pursuing it selectively for whatever reason, is not the answer,” he said.

The conference brought together chiefs of intelligence services from 51 African countries. It focused on countering the growing threat of abuse of universal jurisdiction against Africa.

“It is a form of ‘lawfare,’ where international law is abused to keep Africa in a subordinate position in the global order,” President Kagame added.

African countries are lobbying for a common position that would deter enforcement of the principle of international judicial jurisdiction. This is because while a state enjoys judicial jurisdiction over infractions committed within its territory, universal jurisdiction gives any country the power to prosecute international crimes.


“For a long time, some parts of the world seemed more important than others and the lives of the people there were somehow more valuable. International responses generally reflected that unspoken hierarchy.

“Looking at the global state of affairs today, there is no longer any clear distinction between so-called strong and weak states. We are all affected, and more importantly, everybody has an essential contribution to make in finding solutions,” President Kagame said.

African countries argue that while universal jurisdiction is good, it should be applied in good faith and evenly to all states to reflect the principles of sovereignty and equality of states.

They argue that this has not been the case, particularly with The Hague based International Criminal Court which was set up to prosecute war criminals and human-rights violators.

In recent years, many African countries have accused the court of bias against the continent, with some threatening to pull out. Eight of the nine countries that the ICC has opened inquiries into are in Africa. And increasingly, many African countries are treating the Court’s decisions with contempt.

For instance, Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir who has been indicted by the Court, continues to travel freely in most African countries as the governments have rejected calls to arrest him and hand him over to the Court. The Court has indicted President al Bashir for masterminding genocide in Darfur.

In July, the ICC referred Uganda and Djibouti to the United Nations Security Council and the Assembly of State Parties, which represents nations that have ratified the ICC treaty, for failing to arrest the Sudanese leader.

Additional Reporting by Joseph Mwamunyange.