African courts have potential to replace ICC: Dr. P. Clark
Sun Nov 17, 2013 6:11PM
So I think we have to recognize that there was already enormous momentum around prosecuting genocide war crimes and crimes against humanity in many African countries before the ICC emerged on the scene and I think that that’s something the court and its supporters ignore all too readily.Press TV: Do you think there is potential for this momentum to keep building up because some people argue like Desmond Tutu does that the people who are actually seeking to remove themselves from the ICC should actually be in front of it? Clark: I don’t thinks it’s as straight forward to think that it’s the ICC or no justice whatsoever.
I think we need to shift the whole debate to focus on what African States themselves can do in terms of prosecuting these very serious crimes.It is true that some African states are more willing to do this than others and I think that there needs to be more pressure on some African states to deal with their own problems, but I think by the same token we need to recognize that there is an enormous amount of domestic momentum in many, many African countries to hold their own leaders and other perpetrators of serious crimes accountable. And so I think we should shift the whole debate not so much to talk about international justice, but in fact to talk about African justice and the things that are already very productively being done in many African court rooms as we speak. Press TV: Can they escape justice with the existence of an African court of justice because this debate is going to force the AU to discuss a potential existing solution. You know, it’s OK to be against the ICC, but what about justice for those people who are clamoring for justice and are not getting any? Clark: Yes I would agree with that. I think that it’s fine for the AU to express these very important concerns about the ICC, but the pressure is now on the AU itself to set up a viable regional body and unfortunately the Africa Court of Justice on human rights at the moment is basically a skeleton of an institution - it exists on paper, but it has very little momentum and activity around it. So the press is on the AU to firstly make that a functional body. The second that I think that needs to be done is that there needs to be much more international attention paid to the possibility of prosecuting cases through domestic courts in Africa. I’ve already mentioned Rwanda, where I am currently, and north eastern Congo as places where here have already been important justice processes happening. But there are also important processes happening in places like Senegal, which is prosecuting the former president of Chad; we’ve seen use of the South African courts to deal with human rights cases from Zimbabwe; and we’ve also seen an important development in South Kivu province in Congo, which has been the use of mobile courts to deal with sexual violence cases. Those mobile courts have been a combination of domestic Congolese judges working in concert with external experts. And so there are these very important domestic justice processes that are happening in Africa and I think that much of the international debate would benefit from focusing on that potential and whether the billions of dollars that are being spent on international criminal justice could in fact be better spent in terms of judicial reform within African states themselves. SC/PR