HARARE – It is important that the ICC as a court of justice depicts the qualities of independence, impartiality and accountability in the discharge of its mandate.
Without these qualities, it is hardly possible that it can succeed in its mandate of eradication of impunity for widespread and systematic gross human rights violations on the globe.
It is a sad reality that widespread and systematic gross human rights violations have taken place in Africa and continue to do so.
It is also of concern that in many cases those who bear responsibility for the protection of the rights of African people as enshrined in many human rights instruments that African countries have voluntarily signed and ratified are the ones who are at the forefront of violating such rights or orchestrating such violations.
The demonstrable involvement of African leaders in the violation of their people’s rights complicates the ICC-AU relations.
It creates a potentially false conflict between justice and sovereignty.
The concepts of justice and sovereignty are then looked at in this tension, from the lens of African leaders and completely marginalising the voices of the ordinary people who are the real sovereign right holders and often the victims of violations and possible beneficiaries of fairness, impartiality and equality in the pursuit of justice.
In resolving the tension between the ICC and the AU, it is irresponsible for us in Africa to give an impression that we are not interested in accountability if it involves making our leaders account for their role in violations of African people’s rights.
We must never be seen as ignoring the plight and views of the many Africans (usually ordinary people) who suffer at the hands of state orchestrated or sanctioned violations.
It is also not a good defence that because leaders from other continents violate human rights with impunity, then we can also violate African people’s rights with impunity as leaders.
Separation of contestations in international diplomacy on one hand and security of people in Africa from violations especially orchestrated by African leaders on the other, is important.
We must be rigorous in both without conflating them.
We must defend Africa’s interest in international diplomacy with one voice and also vigorously pursue justice for violations of rights on our continent more so if the violations are done by leaders who bear greatest responsibility to protect African people.
The two are not mutually destructive.
The AU has conflated the issues and the debate on them in a way that undermines both the AU diplomatic effort at equality before the law and the pursuit of justice for victims of human rights violations especially when committed by leaders who are supposed to protect us.