Pursuing Criminal Justice at Home: West Africa Stakeholders’ Meeting

RWI in cooperation with Africa Legal Aid (AFLA) and the Attorney General’s Chambers and Ministry of Justice of The Gambia convened a West Africa Stakeholders’ Meeting on Emerging Trends on Complementarity in Banjul, The Gambia from 25-26 April. The event was followed by a 20th Anniversary Commemoration of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Morten Kjaerum, RWI’s Director spoke at the opening ceremony saying:

It seems so obvious after having worked in the region since the early 1990’s. We are delighted to be working together on this with AFLA, a long-standing partner of RWI, with mutual involvement in programme activities and common priorities in terms of promoting access to justice and the rule of law in Africa – and to end impunity.

This meeting, the first of three planned for the year, focused on stimulating debate on the principle of complementarity. Complementarity rests on the assumption that it is preferable to pursue criminal justice on the territory where the alleged crimes were committed, and/or on the territory where the perpetrator can be found, rather than to have this done by the ICC.

To achieve complementarity, it is thus crucial to increase and improve the capacity and power of domestic and regional actors and empower them to take up their responsibilities to investigate and prosecute international crimes.

In recent years various initiatives have been taken in Africa to achieve complementarity. These include the proposals to create – at the African level – a criminal chamber for the African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights. We have also seen instances such as the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Courts of Senegal that led to the prosecution and sentencing of former Chadian leader Hissène Habré, the work of the International Crimes Division (ICD) of the High Court of Uganda, and the establishment of the Special Criminal Tribunal for the Central African Republic.

Participants in the West Africa Stakeholders’ Consultation included members of the Judiciary, Prosecutors, Civil Society, Legal Fraternity and Victims attended from Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.

There were also representatives from the ICC and other human rights institutions working on complementarity. The next two Stakeholders’ meetings will focus on East Africa and Central Africa, with the results and outcomes of these meetings shared with representatives of ICC member states as well as the broader international justice community in The Hague.

RWI’s Regional Africa Programme, which is financially supported by Swedish Development Cooperation, is currently in its inception phase with a strong emphasis on mutual collaboration and wide-ranging consultation to co-create the programme framework.

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