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Govt scheming to end democracy in Bangladesh

With many custodial deaths, violent crimes, enforced disappearances of opposition political leaders, killing of a journalist couple one of whom was said to have been working on an investigative report about the power gas sector, involvement of law enforcing agencies like RAB in political murders, corruption of gargantuan proportions, huge stock market swindling and scams galore in government-owned banks, the Awami League (AL) rule of  Sheikh Hasina has been widely condemned in the media abroad, while at home the body politic by and large rejected her party.
Despite the farcical charade of polls of 5 January this year, which Hasina described as a matter of mere obligation to go by the rules indicating midterm general election, the ruling AL bigwigs are now showing a brazen 360-degree volte-face shouting aloud that the next parliamentary election will not be held before 2019. This and other conspiracies indicate that the AL government is hell-bent on annihilating democracy in Bangladesh.
Though Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was subjected to extreme humiliation, repression and imprisonment by the military junta tyrant General Ayub Khan, nevertheless Sheikh Hasina’s government seems to be planning to follow the military dictator Ayub’s footprints. Like every military despot, Ayub wanted to cling to power. As soon as he came to power, one of the first steps he took was the passing of Disqualification of politicians and political parties under Elective Bodies Disqualification Order (EBDO).
As has been reported, along the lines of Ayub’s EBDO, a contemptible depraved scheme is afoot to implicate and indict some 140 political leaders of the main opposition BNP—-which, as per records, has a far greater popular following much outnumbering that of the ruling AL—-with the intention of disqualifying them to contest in any future election. It seems to be a sequel to the general election in 2008 under the military-backed administration [described by Sheikh Hasina as the result of her party’s agitational movement] when over a 100 popular political leaders—-most of them from the BNP—-could not contest because they were made convicted under the Emergency Rule of the Army-backed government. [Vide http ://mzamin Comdetails hp? mzamin=Mzg1Nzk=&s=Mg]
Meanwhile, BNP acting secretary general (ASG) Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir alleged on August 06, 2014 that the recent charges framed against BNP leaders are aimed to keep them out of the next election and smear their political image. “The government has filed many false cases against our leaders since 2009. It has framed numerous charges against us too. The recent charges are evidently part of a politically motivated move to keep BNP leaders out of the next election,” he said. Detectives on August 05 framed charges against 41 BNP leaders, including ASG Fakhrul and standing committee members Moudud Ahmed, Mirza Abbas and Goyeshwar Chandra Roy, BNP vice chairman Abdullah Al Noman and Dhaka city member secretary Habib-un-Nabi Sohel, in a case filed with Ramna Police Station last year. [.bd thedailystar.net /cases-to-keep-bnp –leaders -out-of-polls-36143].
It is beyond question and goes without saying that if the government’s sinister retrogressive move of  the power to impeach the Supreme Court judges is vested in the parliament [which is not if truth be told represented by the people as the majority of the so-called  MPs were selected by Sheikh Hasina but not elected by voters] and the attempt to muzzle again the media by means of the National Broadcast Policy (NBP) —- in astonishing consonance and compliance with the Prime Minister’s quite explicit personal disgust for private TV talk shows; she spoke her mind when she termed the word ‘talk’ as ‘tok’ in Bengali (meaning sour) and compared their participants to burglars—- historians and political scientists will sure describe Sheikh Hasina as the gravedigger of democracy again. The first formal burial of press freedom was done by the Awami League (AL) regime of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975.
That was a brazen betrayal because an overwhelming majority of the newspapers of the then East Pakistan gave a rock-hard support to Sheikh Mujib during his stormy political career before independence. And some media leaders were his genuine friends in need. He sacked one of the most courageous and well-known newspaper editors of the subcontinent, Abdus Salam who headed the editorial team of a high-grade opposition English daily, The Pakistan Observer which was vocal for autonomy of the then East Pakistan. Sheikh Mujib amply rewarded (!) the veteran nationalist journalist Salam by dismissing from his position.
Way back in 1965—-six months ahead of Mujib’s Six-point Programme was articulated in 1966—-the weekly Holiday emerged as vox populi under the editorship of Enayetullah Khan as the only English weekly robustly opposing the politically discriminatory, prejudiced and economically exploitative policy of  Pakistan. The irony is that Mujib imprisoned the outspoken editor of the Holiday. Regarded as one of the great Bengali poets of the 20th century, Al Mahmud, editor of the Bengali daily Ganokontho, was also incarcerated for one year by the AL. Thus Sheikh Mujib adopted a deplorable policy against the media. As if that was not enough, Mujib banned all the political parties [including Awami League (AL)] and launched the notorious one-party rule of the BKSAL. The AL government is pursuing a very wrong, despicable and most unjust course which will enrage all democracy loving people here which could lead to protracted political turmoil.

Comment

With many custodial deaths, violent crimes, enforced disappearances of opposition political leaders, killing of a journalist couple one of whom was said to have been working on an investigative report about the power gas sector, involvement of law enforcing agencies like RAB in political murders, corruption of gargantuan proportions, huge stock market swindling and scams galore in government-owned banks, the Awami League (AL) rule of  Sheikh Hasina has been widely condemned in the media abroad, while at home the body politic by and large rejected her party.
Despite the farcical charade of polls of 5 January this year, which Hasina described as a matter of mere obligation to go by the rules indicating midterm general election, the ruling AL bigwigs are now showing a brazen 360-degree volte-face shouting aloud that the next parliamentary election will not be held before 2019. This and other conspiracies indicate that the AL government is hell-bent on annihilating democracy in Bangladesh.
Though Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was subjected to extreme humiliation, repression and imprisonment by the military junta tyrant General Ayub Khan, nevertheless Sheikh Hasina’s government seems to be planning to follow the military dictator Ayub’s footprints. Like every military despot, Ayub wanted to cling to power. As soon as he came to power, one of the first steps he took was the passing of Disqualification of politicians and political parties under Elective Bodies Disqualification Order (EBDO).
As has been reported, along the lines of Ayub’s EBDO, a contemptible depraved scheme is afoot to implicate and indict some 140 political leaders of the main opposition BNP—-which, as per records, has a far greater popular following much outnumbering that of the ruling AL—-with the intention of disqualifying them to contest in any future election. It seems to be a sequel to the general election in 2008 under the military-backed administration [described by Sheikh Hasina as the result of her party’s agitational movement] when over a 100 popular political leaders—-most of them from the BNP—-could not contest because they were made convicted under the Emergency Rule of the Army-backed government. [Vide http ://mzamin Comdetails hp? mzamin=Mzg1Nzk=&s=Mg]
Meanwhile, BNP acting secretary general (ASG) Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir alleged on August 06, 2014 that the recent charges framed against BNP leaders are aimed to keep them out of the next election and smear their political image. “The government has filed many false cases against our leaders since 2009. It has framed numerous charges against us too. The recent charges are evidently part of a politically motivated move to keep BNP leaders out of the next election,” he said. Detectives on August 05 framed charges against 41 BNP leaders, including ASG Fakhrul and standing committee members Moudud Ahmed, Mirza Abbas and Goyeshwar Chandra Roy, BNP vice chairman Abdullah Al Noman and Dhaka city member secretary Habib-un-Nabi Sohel, in a case filed with Ramna Police Station last year. [.bd thedailystar.net /cases-to-keep-bnp –leaders -out-of-polls-36143].
It is beyond question and goes without saying that if the government’s sinister retrogressive move of  the power to impeach the Supreme Court judges is vested in the parliament [which is not if truth be told represented by the people as the majority of the so-called  MPs were selected by Sheikh Hasina but not elected by voters] and the attempt to muzzle again the media by means of the National Broadcast Policy (NBP) —- in astonishing consonance and compliance with the Prime Minister’s quite explicit personal disgust for private TV talk shows; she spoke her mind when she termed the word ‘talk’ as ‘tok’ in Bengali (meaning sour) and compared their participants to burglars—- historians and political scientists will sure describe Sheikh Hasina as the gravedigger of democracy again. The first formal burial of press freedom was done by the Awami League (AL) regime of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975.
That was a brazen betrayal because an overwhelming majority of the newspapers of the then East Pakistan gave a rock-hard support to Sheikh Mujib during his stormy political career before independence. And some media leaders were his genuine friends in need. He sacked one of the most courageous and well-known newspaper editors of the subcontinent, Abdus Salam who headed the editorial team of a high-grade opposition English daily, The Pakistan Observer which was vocal for autonomy of the then East Pakistan. Sheikh Mujib amply rewarded (!) the veteran nationalist journalist Salam by dismissing from his position.
Way back in 1965—-six months ahead of Mujib’s Six-point Programme was articulated in 1966—-the weekly Holiday emerged as vox populi under the editorship of Enayetullah Khan as the only English weekly robustly opposing the politically discriminatory, prejudiced and economically exploitative policy of  Pakistan. The irony is that Mujib imprisoned the outspoken editor of the Holiday. Regarded as one of the great Bengali poets of the 20th century, Al Mahmud, editor of the Bengali daily Ganokontho, was also incarcerated for one year by the AL. Thus Sheikh Mujib adopted a deplorable policy against the media. As if that was not enough, Mujib banned all the political parties [including Awami League (AL)] and launched the notorious one-party rule of the BKSAL. The AL government is pursuing a very wrong, despicable and most unjust course which will enrage all democracy loving people here which could lead to protracted political turmoil.


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Kerry’s visit to Myanmar to support democratic norms

Barrister Harunur Rashid

Myanmar – a land mass as large as Britain and France combined with only about 60 million population – shares borders with 40% percent of the world’s population in India, China, Bangladesh and Thailand. Its ports on the Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea sit just north of the Malacca Strait, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
Washington’s biggest military concern in Asia is reportedly China’s growing and increasingly assertive armed forces, in particular in South China Sea.  Washington wants to strengthen military ties with Myanmar and invited Myanmar to witness early this year the major military exercise in the Asia Pacific region with about 10,000 US soldiers with Thailand and other ASEAN countries.
This relationship may eventually lead to arms sales and other forms of military aid and training. As such, it will further embed the US military presence in the Bay of Bengal, a strategic linchpin and gateway to the Indian Ocean for Washington.
US support democracy in Myanmar
Myanmar’s President, U Thein Sein, paid a visit to Washington on May 20, 2012 another important step in the warming of relations between the United States and Myanmar. President U Thein Sein, who surprised many critics by ushering in democratic changes in Myanmar, had been the first leader from Myanmar for a bilateral visit to Washington since 1966.
The White House said at the time that the visit was in recognition of the democratic reforms undertaken by his government. President Obama made a landmark visit to Myanmar in November, 2012 and to please the Myanmar leaders he referred to Myanmar as the name of country instead of “Burma”.
Given the above context, US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit is no surprise. He arrived in Myanmar on August 9 on his way to Australia and Solomon Islands. In Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw where he met government leaders and attended a series of gatherings including the ASEAN Regional Forum and East Asia Summit ministerial talks.
The United States’ top diplomat also participated in a series of bilateral meetings during his stay there. Apart from Myanmar’s strategic significance, John Kerry’s visit to Myanmar comes as the clock is ticking for Myanmar’s major political parties in the run-up to the 2015 national elections.
As many as 70 political parties reportedly could compete in a country that has been plagued by civil war and ethnic violence for generations. Among these parties will be two major forces: the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi and the military’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
Government reforms initiated over the past few years by Myanmar reformist President have brought about greater voter expectations, meaning the parties will have to offer a clear vision for the future and concrete plans on how they will keep the country moving in the right direction. Yet as voters have become more sophisticated, political parties are still struggling to find their voices.

Strategic caution needed
While the USDP may point to tangible economic development and political reform achievements, the NLD can counter that achievements were a long time coming, with gaps remaining in areas such as economic equality, human rights, and democratization.
NLD boycotted the 2010 elections that brought the USDP to power, but was successful in the landmark 2012 by-elections, winning 43 out of 46 seats. However, no one should assume the same outcome this time. The recent Indonesian presidential election demonstrated how quickly a divisive and hard-fought race can lead to a tussle over the democratic process.
The NLD has focused primarily on government unwillingness to amend the military-drafted constitution that is seen as the main barrier to real democratic change. This includes an article that forbids anyone with a spouse or children who are not Burma citizens from becoming president, effectively banning Aung San Suu Kyi from assuming office.
A recent nationwide poll conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI) showed that 64% of respondents supported repealing the article when Aung San Suu Kyi was mentioned. But it looks increasingly like the NLD may have to compete in an election without any changes to the constitution.
Observers say while the NLD’s campaign strategy will likely adapt to this fact as the election approaches, Ms.Suu Kyi would be wise to not put too much stock in the international community’s ability to pressure the government for constitutional reforms. An imperfect election will still be viewed as an important step forward in the democratic transition and will probably trump any perceived need for immediate constitutional changes.
Instead, observers argue the NLD should focus on improving its internal organization to maximize its sparse financial resources and make the best use of its human resources. Its many highly motivated activists should be a formidable campaign asset. Beyond calls for democratic reforms, the NLD will also need to address issues pertinent to ordinary voters such as unemployment, security and rising prices.

Stage set for electoral tussle
The ruling USDP enjoys all the benefits of incumbency. It has the resources to get its message out, an organized and disciplined national network of supporters, and the means to reward supporters for their efforts. The party also has administrative control over most of the country and the ability to clamp down on politically disadvantageous rhetoric or activities under the guise of ensuring security and stability.
Citizens recognize the ruling USDP has increased development and improved the economy, initiated political reforms including reduced restrictions on the press, greater freedom of assembly and the release of hundreds of political prisoners. While the situation is far from perfect, even the government’s sharpest critics must concede that much has been accomplished in a short period of time.
While support for democratic processes remains high ­the same IRI poll found that 76% of Myanmarese agree that democracy is better than any other form of government,­ only one-quarter believe the ruling USDP supports democratic reforms compared to almost half who said the same of the NLD. The USDP’s message of national development and tangible achievements may fall on deaf ears if it is unable to convince voters of its democratic credentials.
Both parties will need to address toxic and polarizing issues such as communal violence, primarily directed at Muslims, and the ban on inter-faith marriage. If mishandled, these issues could derail the election process. More than 50 smaller political parties represent different ethnic groups. Their support could decide which party leads the ruling coalition.
Myanmar citizens have waited for generations for the opportunity to choose their own representatives. The future of politics in the country will depend in part on political parties’ efforts to organize their message and give voters a clear and informed choice in the run-up the 2015 elections. The stage is set for an electoral tussle between the ruling and opposition parties; hopefully the people of Myanmar will be beneficiaries of a strong campaign next year.
The writer is former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

Comment

Barrister Harunur Rashid

Myanmar – a land mass as large as Britain and France combined with only about 60 million population – shares borders with 40% percent of the world’s population in India, China, Bangladesh and Thailand. Its ports on the Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea sit just north of the Malacca Strait, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
Washington’s biggest military concern in Asia is reportedly China’s growing and increasingly assertive armed forces, in particular in South China Sea.  Washington wants to strengthen military ties with Myanmar and invited Myanmar to witness early this year the major military exercise in the Asia Pacific region with about 10,000 US soldiers with Thailand and other ASEAN countries.
This relationship may eventually lead to arms sales and other forms of military aid and training. As such, it will further embed the US military presence in the Bay of Bengal, a strategic linchpin and gateway to the Indian Ocean for Washington.
US support democracy in Myanmar
Myanmar’s President, U Thein Sein, paid a visit to Washington on May 20, 2012 another important step in the warming of relations between the United States and Myanmar. President U Thein Sein, who surprised many critics by ushering in democratic changes in Myanmar, had been the first leader from Myanmar for a bilateral visit to Washington since 1966.
The White House said at the time that the visit was in recognition of the democratic reforms undertaken by his government. President Obama made a landmark visit to Myanmar in November, 2012 and to please the Myanmar leaders he referred to Myanmar as the name of country instead of “Burma”.
Given the above context, US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit is no surprise. He arrived in Myanmar on August 9 on his way to Australia and Solomon Islands. In Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw where he met government leaders and attended a series of gatherings including the ASEAN Regional Forum and East Asia Summit ministerial talks.
The United States’ top diplomat also participated in a series of bilateral meetings during his stay there. Apart from Myanmar’s strategic significance, John Kerry’s visit to Myanmar comes as the clock is ticking for Myanmar’s major political parties in the run-up to the 2015 national elections.
As many as 70 political parties reportedly could compete in a country that has been plagued by civil war and ethnic violence for generations. Among these parties will be two major forces: the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi and the military’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
Government reforms initiated over the past few years by Myanmar reformist President have brought about greater voter expectations, meaning the parties will have to offer a clear vision for the future and concrete plans on how they will keep the country moving in the right direction. Yet as voters have become more sophisticated, political parties are still struggling to find their voices.

Strategic caution needed
While the USDP may point to tangible economic development and political reform achievements, the NLD can counter that achievements were a long time coming, with gaps remaining in areas such as economic equality, human rights, and democratization.
NLD boycotted the 2010 elections that brought the USDP to power, but was successful in the landmark 2012 by-elections, winning 43 out of 46 seats. However, no one should assume the same outcome this time. The recent Indonesian presidential election demonstrated how quickly a divisive and hard-fought race can lead to a tussle over the democratic process.
The NLD has focused primarily on government unwillingness to amend the military-drafted constitution that is seen as the main barrier to real democratic change. This includes an article that forbids anyone with a spouse or children who are not Burma citizens from becoming president, effectively banning Aung San Suu Kyi from assuming office.
A recent nationwide poll conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI) showed that 64% of respondents supported repealing the article when Aung San Suu Kyi was mentioned. But it looks increasingly like the NLD may have to compete in an election without any changes to the constitution.
Observers say while the NLD’s campaign strategy will likely adapt to this fact as the election approaches, Ms.Suu Kyi would be wise to not put too much stock in the international community’s ability to pressure the government for constitutional reforms. An imperfect election will still be viewed as an important step forward in the democratic transition and will probably trump any perceived need for immediate constitutional changes.
Instead, observers argue the NLD should focus on improving its internal organization to maximize its sparse financial resources and make the best use of its human resources. Its many highly motivated activists should be a formidable campaign asset. Beyond calls for democratic reforms, the NLD will also need to address issues pertinent to ordinary voters such as unemployment, security and rising prices.

Stage set for electoral tussle
The ruling USDP enjoys all the benefits of incumbency. It has the resources to get its message out, an organized and disciplined national network of supporters, and the means to reward supporters for their efforts. The party also has administrative control over most of the country and the ability to clamp down on politically disadvantageous rhetoric or activities under the guise of ensuring security and stability.
Citizens recognize the ruling USDP has increased development and improved the economy, initiated political reforms including reduced restrictions on the press, greater freedom of assembly and the release of hundreds of political prisoners. While the situation is far from perfect, even the government’s sharpest critics must concede that much has been accomplished in a short period of time.
While support for democratic processes remains high ­the same IRI poll found that 76% of Myanmarese agree that democracy is better than any other form of government,­ only one-quarter believe the ruling USDP supports democratic reforms compared to almost half who said the same of the NLD. The USDP’s message of national development and tangible achievements may fall on deaf ears if it is unable to convince voters of its democratic credentials.
Both parties will need to address toxic and polarizing issues such as communal violence, primarily directed at Muslims, and the ban on inter-faith marriage. If mishandled, these issues could derail the election process. More than 50 smaller political parties represent different ethnic groups. Their support could decide which party leads the ruling coalition.
Myanmar citizens have waited for generations for the opportunity to choose their own representatives. The future of politics in the country will depend in part on political parties’ efforts to organize their message and give voters a clear and informed choice in the run-up the 2015 elections. The stage is set for an electoral tussle between the ruling and opposition parties; hopefully the people of Myanmar will be beneficiaries of a strong campaign next year.
The writer is former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.


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Civil society condemns African leaders accused of serious crimes

Miriam Gathigah in Nairobi

From her shanty in the sprawling Kibera slums, in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, Wacu follows the proceedings of the cases for crimes against humanity levelled against President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Netherlands. But here in Kenya, like many who bore the brunt of the unprecedented violence, justice remains beyond Wacu’s reach. It is a scenario that is all too familiar in Africa’s conflict-prone countries like Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mary Wacu lived in the Rift Valley region for 10 years prior to the 2007/08 post-election violence that rocked Kenya after a disputed general election. “My husband was shot with a poisoned arrow, and my children hacked to death. Everything was burnt to ashes, I barely escaped with my life,” she tells IPS. According to human rights organisations, the violence in this East African nation left an estimated 1,500 people dead and resulted in the rape of 3,000 women and the displacement of 300,000 people.
Against this backdrop, civil society organisations (CSOs) in Africa as well as international ones working on the continent, have opposed the recently-adopted Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights by the African Union (AU) member heads of states in June.The protocol extends criminal jurisdiction to the African Court, and offers immunity to serving heads of states and all senior government officials during their term of office for serious crimes. The African Court was established by African countries to ensure protection of human and peoples’ rights on the continent.
A source from Malawi attending the just-concluded meeting to promote ratification of AU treaties, which was held in Nairobi by the AU Office of the Legal Counsel on the 25 and 26 of August, explains to IPS that the amendments include an immunity provision for heads of states or governments and certain senior state officials for serious crimes against humanity.The contentious article 46A categorically states that no charges shall be commenced or continued against any serving AU head of state or government, or anybody acting or entitled to act in such capacity.
“Lifting immunity for sitting officials for serious crimes committed is an assurance to African leaders that they are above the law,” the source says.AU officials at the meeting, however, refused to comment to IPS on the protocol.Malawi has taken the lead in mobilising other CSOs across Africa to tell their governments that the immunity provision is a blatant disrespect for human rights.
The source says that with a number of African leaders already under the radar of the ICC, “an immunity provision is offering African leaders the licence to abuse their people. It will further entrench dictatorship since many leaders will be afraid of being indicted when their term ends.”The civil society community says that the African Court was moving in the right direction, until now.
Edigah Kavulavu, of the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists, tells IPS that the adopted protocol is the first legal instrument to extend a regional court’s authority to criminal jurisdiction “regional courts often deal with human rights issues, which are matters of a civil nature.”
He says that the African Court can now try cases of a criminal nature, including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.He points out that the main bone of contention with the protocol is the immunity provision. Article 46A, Kavulavu says, is in breach of the principles that govern human rights. “Through ICC and other regional courts such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone, these courts complement each other so that they can bridge the impunity gap,” he explains.
James Gondi of the Kenyans For Peace With Truth and Justice, a coalition of over 30 Kenyan and East African legal, human rights, and governance organisations, tells IPS that international criminal law and international justice demand that “those bearing greatest responsibility are often head of states, heads of military and high level elites who plan, finance and coordinate criminal acts [be held to account]. The amendment is meant to serve the interests of these three categories of people.”
The human rights lawyer further says that immunity negates the principles of transparency and accountability, respect for the rule of law and for humanity. He says that the immunity provision is a display that African leaders are immune to the criminal justice system. Gondi says that the objective of the criminal justice of which the African Court now has mandate is and should be to “deter future atrocities and to end impunity.”
The lawyer says that the regime of law has developed such that immunity for heads of state is lifted in many national and international laws where crimes committed are so heinous that the law cannot turn a blind eye.
African countries with national laws that rule out immunity for sitting officials for serious crimes include Benin, Kenya, Burkina Faso the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa.
Gondi says that while the general principle of the law is that “we cannot give immunity for crimes against humanity because they are so grave. The law is an issue of politics and politics are defined by impunity and political will.” Moving forward, Gondi says that there must be a concerted international and regional effort to end impunity and the political will to drive these efforts, “citizens must also demand for accountability from their leaders.” The Malawi source urged CSOs to lobby, protest and campaign to have their governments reject the adoption and continue with sustained campaigns.
— IPS

Comment

Miriam Gathigah in Nairobi

From her shanty in the sprawling Kibera slums, in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, Wacu follows the proceedings of the cases for crimes against humanity levelled against President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Netherlands. But here in Kenya, like many who bore the brunt of the unprecedented violence, justice remains beyond Wacu’s reach. It is a scenario that is all too familiar in Africa’s conflict-prone countries like Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mary Wacu lived in the Rift Valley region for 10 years prior to the 2007/08 post-election violence that rocked Kenya after a disputed general election. “My husband was shot with a poisoned arrow, and my children hacked to death. Everything was burnt to ashes, I barely escaped with my life,” she tells IPS. According to human rights organisations, the violence in this East African nation left an estimated 1,500 people dead and resulted in the rape of 3,000 women and the displacement of 300,000 people.
Against this backdrop, civil society organisations (CSOs) in Africa as well as international ones working on the continent, have opposed the recently-adopted Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights by the African Union (AU) member heads of states in June.The protocol extends criminal jurisdiction to the African Court, and offers immunity to serving heads of states and all senior government officials during their term of office for serious crimes. The African Court was established by African countries to ensure protection of human and peoples’ rights on the continent.
A source from Malawi attending the just-concluded meeting to promote ratification of AU treaties, which was held in Nairobi by the AU Office of the Legal Counsel on the 25 and 26 of August, explains to IPS that the amendments include an immunity provision for heads of states or governments and certain senior state officials for serious crimes against humanity.The contentious article 46A categorically states that no charges shall be commenced or continued against any serving AU head of state or government, or anybody acting or entitled to act in such capacity.
“Lifting immunity for sitting officials for serious crimes committed is an assurance to African leaders that they are above the law,” the source says.AU officials at the meeting, however, refused to comment to IPS on the protocol.Malawi has taken the lead in mobilising other CSOs across Africa to tell their governments that the immunity provision is a blatant disrespect for human rights.
The source says that with a number of African leaders already under the radar of the ICC, “an immunity provision is offering African leaders the licence to abuse their people. It will further entrench dictatorship since many leaders will be afraid of being indicted when their term ends.”The civil society community says that the African Court was moving in the right direction, until now.
Edigah Kavulavu, of the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists, tells IPS that the adopted protocol is the first legal instrument to extend a regional court’s authority to criminal jurisdiction “regional courts often deal with human rights issues, which are matters of a civil nature.”
He says that the African Court can now try cases of a criminal nature, including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.He points out that the main bone of contention with the protocol is the immunity provision. Article 46A, Kavulavu says, is in breach of the principles that govern human rights. “Through ICC and other regional courts such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone, these courts complement each other so that they can bridge the impunity gap,” he explains.
James Gondi of the Kenyans For Peace With Truth and Justice, a coalition of over 30 Kenyan and East African legal, human rights, and governance organisations, tells IPS that international criminal law and international justice demand that “those bearing greatest responsibility are often head of states, heads of military and high level elites who plan, finance and coordinate criminal acts [be held to account]. The amendment is meant to serve the interests of these three categories of people.”
The human rights lawyer further says that immunity negates the principles of transparency and accountability, respect for the rule of law and for humanity. He says that the immunity provision is a display that African leaders are immune to the criminal justice system. Gondi says that the objective of the criminal justice of which the African Court now has mandate is and should be to “deter future atrocities and to end impunity.”
The lawyer says that the regime of law has developed such that immunity for heads of state is lifted in many national and international laws where crimes committed are so heinous that the law cannot turn a blind eye.
African countries with national laws that rule out immunity for sitting officials for serious crimes include Benin, Kenya, Burkina Faso the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa.
Gondi says that while the general principle of the law is that “we cannot give immunity for crimes against humanity because they are so grave. The law is an issue of politics and politics are defined by impunity and political will.” Moving forward, Gondi says that there must be a concerted international and regional effort to end impunity and the political will to drive these efforts, “citizens must also demand for accountability from their leaders.” The Malawi source urged CSOs to lobby, protest and campaign to have their governments reject the adoption and continue with sustained campaigns.
— IPS


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Update: 15 July, 2014 Humanitarian relief for Gaza in peril
 Update: 16 July, 2014 OIC Condemns Terrorist Attack in Paktika
Update July 19, 2014 ACT TO STOP MASSACRE IN GAZA
Update: July 21, 2014 Forced displacement of Christians in Iraq OIC condemns ISIS terror tactics
Update: August 2, 2014 Statement the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to the Arab and Islamic nations
Update: August 3, 2014 Israel’s Brazen Onslaught on Mosques in the Gaza Strip
Update: August 6, 2014 Kashmir Question and Preparations of the First OIC Science & Technology Summit
State of the Ummah Review by Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers
GRAVE SITUATION IN THE OCCUPIED STATE OF PALESTINE INCLUDING AL-QUDS AL- SHARIF Communiqué, Expanded Extraordinary Meeting, Executive Committee of OIC Foreign Ministers, 10 July 2014
Update: August 4, 2014 Islamic Human Rights and Human Dignity day
Update: August 16, 2014 OIC initiatives on ‘Gaza under fire’
Update: August 13, 2014 Positive Developments of last week
Update: August 18, 2014 Crimes against humanity in Gaza OIC Foreign Ministers, Bangladesh Cabinet denounce Israel
Update: August 21, 2014 NIGERIAN FOREIGN MINISTER BRIEFS OIC Ebola outbreak and Regional Security Summit to combat Boko Haram
Update: August 24, 2014 OIC ON IRAQ IN DANGER Barbaric conduct of so-called Islamic State
Update: August 28,.2014 UN SYMPOSIUM ON ALLIANCE OF CIVILISATIONS OIC Secretary General Madani to visit to Indonesia  
Updates: August 30, 2014 OIC-FAO technical cooperation in food security and poverty eradication
Updates: August 30, 2014 OIC Secretary General in Bali
Updates: August 30, 2014 OIC Secretary General in Indonesia
FOUNDING EDITOR: ENAYETULLAH KHAN; EDITOR: SAYED KAMALUDDIN
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