Paving the Way? Africa and the Future of International Criminal Law

Article excerpt

The panel was convened at 1:00 p.m., Thursday, March 29, by its moderator, Vincent Nmehielle of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, who introduced the panelists: Vernice Guthrie-Sullivan of the ABA Africa Law Institute **; Jeremy Levitt of the Florida International College of Law; and Simone Monasebian of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. ([dagger])


By Vincent O. Nmehielle ([double dagger])

It is indeed my pleasure to welcome you all to the panel organized by the Africa Interest Group. The theme of the panel is "Paving the Way? Africa and the Future of International Law." A close observation of the current happenings in the field of international criminal law would show that Africa appears to have become the scene of interest in the application of international criminal law mechanisms. You may want to look at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, still going on after about eleven years. You may want to also look at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which is in its fourth or fifth year of operation. In the case of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, you have the so-called biggest case of Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, which everyone seems to be interested in. More importantly, if you look at the International Criminal Court (ICC), you would find that all current indictees are from Africa. The question that I ask is: why has Africa become the theatre of international criminal law? This is particularly so in the case of the ICC, which has come to stay as the permanent international criminal tribunal. From all indications, Africa seems to be the continent earmarked to provide ready supply of indictees to the ICC.

I intend to prove a number of issues around what I think on this question. As has been noted in the program, I come from the Special Court for Sierra Leone where I am the Principal Defender of the Special Court. I have a lot of questions to ask from my perspective. But I am a moderator and not a panelist per se and therefore my job is a very easy one because I just read out what the panelists have to say and allow them to say it while I watch to tell them what time to stop. That appears to be my role, but beyond that, as someone involved in the same theatre, I have issues, one of which I have raised: why has Africa become the theatre of international criminal law? And to what extent would that involvement shape future trends in international criminal law? Could it be that other people ought to be within the same theatre, but are not because they are not Africans? In other words, because they are more powerful than Africans in terms of being dragged to the international criminal process? What about the tendency to forgo international agreements and compromises in relation to international criminal trials? Why must a state be forced to accept someone for purposes of creating peace, and later on the same state is asked to surrender him/her for prosecution? These are questions that I will ask as we go on with the panel.

I think I should be able to provoke the panel and the audience on these issues. Our panelists have great expertise, gained from perhaps different angles of the discourse, who may not agree with wholly from my perspective but who will want to propound their own views of what the future holds for international criminal law in relation to Africa.

Without wasting much more of your time, having raised questions rather than answers, I am hoping that the people who have the bigger job to do will be able to answer the questions that I raised.

I would like to introduce members of the panel. On my far left is Simone Monasebian who has undergone the gamut of both prosecution and the defense and now is part of the UN system. Simone is a lawyer by profession, and prior to being a trial attorney at ICTR, she was a private legal practitioner in New York. She was the first substantive Principal Defender of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. …


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