Rome Statute in the spotlight at AFLA Symposium

June 30th, 2015
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Former Constitutional Court Justice, Richard Goldstone, spoke at the Africa Legal Aid symposium in Sandton in May.

Former Constitutional Court Justice, Richard Goldstone, spoke at the Africa Legal Aid symposium in Sandton in May.

Former Constitutional Court Justice, Richard Goldstone, spoke at the Africa Legal Aid (AFLA) symposium in Sandton in May.

AFLA held a symposium titled ‘Universalising the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court’ (ICC). The event was attended by participants from more than 30 countries including Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Burundi, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Zambia, Libya and South Africa, to engage with officials of ICC state parties and representatives of international and intergovernmental organisations.

The topics covered included ‘implementing the Rome Statute’, ‘criminalising the illegal use of force: Has Africa lost its voice?’, ‘the politics of international criminal justice: Can it be avoided?’ and ‘re-engaging Africa in the ICC’.

Speakers at the symposium included Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda; President of the Appeals Division of the ICC, Judge Sanji Monageng; former Constitutional Court Justice, Richard Goldstone; and immediate past Chairperson of the United Nations Commission of Enquiry into Gaza, Professor William Schabas.

Justice Goldstone spoke on the politics of international criminal justice. He said the politics of international criminal justice cannot be avoided. Justice Goldstone also discussed his role as a prosecutor in the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the ongoing war in Bosnia. He also discussed the politics associated with indicting those accused of war crimes in the ICTY.

Judge Monageng gave the keynote address. He spoke on the Rome Statute and universal human rights. Judge Monageng said the creation of the ICC was the finest moment in history, adding that the protection of human rights is a collective goal as is putting an end to impunity.

Judge Monageng said the ICC is complementary to national courts in respect of human rights violations. He said the protection of human rights is the duty of the ICC and national courts.

Ms Fatou Bensouda gave a speech on challenging the culture of impunity for sexual and gender based violence. She said the ICC Statute has expansive protection for sexual and gender based crimes and persecution based on gender.

Ms Bensouda said sexual and gender based crimes have a lasting impact long after conflict, for both, the victims and their families, adding that she believes that ending impunity for sexual and gender based crimes requires collective action through national and international mechanisms.

The ICC alone cannot end the scourge of sexual and gender based crimes, and that mechanisms for collective and universal action must be established, said Ms Bensouda. 

Nomfundo Manyathi-Jele, nomfundo@derebus.org.za

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2015 (July) DR 19.

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