African states can try their own leaders: Dlamini-Zuma
PRETORIA — Africa has the mechanisms to try leaders accused of human rights violations, African Union commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said yesterday.
She would not comment on South Africa’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, saying it was its sovereign right.
“The African Union commission has no standing in the ICC.
“We are not members of the ICC. It’s a purely sovereign decision for each country to join or pull out. As I am chair of African Union commission I will not comment on that,” Dlamini-Zuma said on the sidelines of an African editors’ and press officers’ meeting in Pretoria.
Justice Minister Michael Masutha announced on Friday that South Africa would withdraw from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, due to a conflict between its obligations to the AU and the ICC.
Dlamini-Zuma said former Chad president Hissen Habre’s trial was an example that the continent could prosecute its leaders.
He was charged with human rights violations, including rape and sexual slavery, and ordering the killings of thousands of people. In May this year, he became the first African president to be found guilty in an African court. He was sentenced to life in jail.
“At a continental level, the former president of Chad has been tried in an African court, in an African country, agreed by the AU, funded by the AU, with the judges coming from Africa.
He was tried for atrocities and was found guilty by an African court. Of course now he is appealing,” Dlamini-Zuma said.
South Africa has faced criticism for its decision to withdraw from ICC. Critics said it would allow leaders to act with impunity.
Dlamini-Zuma urged countries to strengthen their courts.
“The ICC is the court of last instance. The first instance is national courts. They must be strengthened so that they can deal with situations as they arise,” Dlamini-Zuma said.
South Africa decided to withdraw from ICC after it was found to have contravened the court’s Rome Statute when it failed to arrest Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir while he was in the country for a twoday AU summit in June 2015.
The ICC has issued warrants for his arrest and wants him to stand trial on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. — Al Jazeera