EACJ Empowerment Faces Political Will Hurdle

1547 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
It was thought that the regional leaders had pioneered the idea to circumvent the International Criminal Court and subsequently have the Kenyan leaders currently facing charges at the ICC transferred to the East African court.

A couple of years after the East African Legislative Assembly passed a resolution to give the East African Court of Justice criminal jurisdiction to enable it to handle cases of crimes against humanity, a law to empower the court is yet to be passed.
 
It was thought that the regional leaders had pioneered the idea to circumvent the International Criminal Court and subsequently have the Kenyan leaders currently facing charges at the ICC transferred to the East African court.
 
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto are facing charges at The Hague based court over the 2007 post election violence in Kenya.
 
But the region seems to have failed to push the idea forward due to what some people have called disagreements and lack of political will within the partner states. After the assembly passed the resolution, the summit which is composed of heads of state directed the sectoral council to draft a bill within one month to be discussed by the assembly but the bill is yet to be tabled in the assembly.
 
EALA member Fred Mukasa Mbidde told Uganda Radio Network that there seems to be disagreements between the partner states and added that the court might not be empowered because of the nature of African leaders.
 
He said that African leaders fear to empower courts which is why the EACJ was given only an interpretative and arbitration role.
 
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Renowned lawyer and Action Coalition on Development and Environment (ACODE)  director Godber Tumushabe also agrees with Mbidde. He says that there is no political will within the community leaders to empower the court adding that if anything they have been trying so hard to weaken it.
 
He said it will be hard to achieve political commitment among all the partner states and adds that it will remain hard as long as the process of the community remains a process of the heads of state.
 
But Mbidde says it will be a good thing if this jurisdiction is not extended to the court if the idea is for it to replace the ICC saying that it will promote impunity as the court will not be able to try sitting presidents.
 
He said that Africa and African leaders must remain accountable to the ICC saying that it is the only way Africa can be saved against impunity since constitutions of most African countries give immunity to sitting presidents.
 
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But Tumushabe says the court can never replace the ICC even if it was given the jurisdiction saying that it can only serve as a judicial alternative. He says that it will mean significantly amending the East African treaty to give the court mandate of a different scope all together.
 
The Kenyan section of International Criminal Jurists when Kibaki announced the decision said that East African leaders should not use the community to serve their selfish interests. ICJ added that the court will not save them from being tried by the ICC because the community is not a state and is not a party to the Rome Statute on which the ICC is established.