AU Grants Presidents Immunity From Prosecution

The decision was taken during the African Union Summit held in Equatorial Guinea.

It was agreed that all serving heads of state and or heads of government accused of committing genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity should not be prosecuted.

The amendment to Article 46A of the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights reads: “No charges shall be commenced or continued before the Court against any serving African Union Head of State or Government, or anybody acting or entitled to act in such capacity, or other senior state officials based on their functions, during their tenure of office.”

Amnesty International has however condemned the move and termed it as a backward step in the fight against impunity and a let down for victims of serious violations of human rights.

“At a time when the African continent is struggling to ensure that there is accountability for serious human rights violations and abuses, it is impossible to justify the decision which undermines the integrity of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, even before it becomes operational,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Director for Research and Advocacy.

Amnesty International also said that irrespective of the AU’s decision, the International Criminal Court (ICC) will retain the right to investigate serving African heads of state and government for such crimes.

Amnesty International has been calling for the amended Article 46A bill to be replaced with a provision such as the one contained in Article 27 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General has now sent an open letter to Heads of State and Government of the African Union asking them to reject the amendment.

By Beth Nyaga