African countries have been urged to rally behind the International Criminal Court (ICC) in efforts to end impunity for grave international crimes.
Thirty Civil Organisations operating in 20 countries in the African continent are urging governments to complement the ICC process by bringing to justice those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
They are also suggesting that an ICC Liaison office to be based in Addis Ababa be created so as to consolidate the understanding and relationship between AU and ICC
In a letter to Foreign Affairs Ministers of African countries meeting in Addis Ababa Ethiopia for the 18th session of the Assembly of African Union which came to a close Monday, the organisations called for AU and the ICC to strengthen their ties and collaborate with each other, hold regular meetings and exchange views.
"The popular uprisings in North Africa have brought to light the strong desire for justice of populations that had been subjected to repressive rule for several decades. Because of these clear aspirations, ratification of the ICC Statute as well as national prosecutions of grave human rights violations are on the agenda of some of the new governments in that region," the organisations stated.
They stated that the government changes in North Africa have the potential to bring a positive shift in the way these countries approach the ICC and accountability for grave crimes.
The organisations include – International Commission of Jurists - Kenya, Human Rights Network-Uganda, South African Litigation Centre, Amnesty International - West Africa Bar Association –Nigeria among others
They said that although the ICC was not on the formal agenda of the AU Assembly at the summit, it provided an opportunity for African states parties to Rome Statutes to informally exchange observations about recent developments and discuss concrete steps that they and the AU can take to advance justice for the victims of crimes under international law, in accordance with Article 4 of the African Union Constitutive Act.
"The year 2011 was marked by a number of important developments for justice for crimes under international law, such as a higher number of ratifications of the ICC Statute than in previous years, strong popular calls for justice in North Africa, and important elections to top positions at the ICC that will result in a change of leadership at the institution this year," they said.
Six new states ratified the ICC statutes including Tunisia and Cape Verde which brings the number of African countries to 33 with the court now enjoying support of over 120 nations around the world.
There is ongoing consideration of possible additional ratifications, including African countries such as CÙte d’Ivoire and Egypt with Mali being the first African state party to enter into an enforcement of sentences agreement with the ICC.
"The appointment of African officials to senior offices at the ICC reflects the important role that individual Africans are playing in contributing to the success of the court and is of great significance to promoting mutual understanding and strengthening cooperation between the ICC and the AU," the letter stated.
One of the challenges facing the ICC is that numerous victims in the eight countries under preliminary examinations in four different continents are still awaiting the ICC to advance justice.
These include Botswana and South Africa - in relation to the situation in Darfur, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda - in relation to the situation in Uganda, and Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger - in relation to the situation in Libya.