The AU has proposed expansion of the jurisdiction of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights to include criminal matters.
“This new court can try really serious cases from war crimes, to genocide, to piracy and transnational crime and in that sense it is really good and quite progressive to have a court that can do all these things,” Simon Allison, a senior reporter for Africa at the Daily Maverick told CNBC Africa.
However, the AU is looking to incorporate a clause exempting from prosecution any serving AU Head of State and 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.
“By agreeing to this immunity provision going through, [African leaders] are basically saying ‘it is never our fault’ and I think this is worrying because it is like a get out of jail card to the leaders,” Allison said.
The AU has implied in the past that the ICC is going after African leaders disproportionately making the body very critical of the functioning of the international court.
“There have been problems with the way the ICC has handled its prosecutions. There has been focus on Africa. Almost all incidents are African and it is a concern. It really revises questions about the ICC’s credibility,” Allison said.
However, Allison believes that Africa still has a long way to go before it can have a court that can try serious crimes.
“There have been several attempts to set up this kind of court. There was a protocol to set up a court of justice a few years ago but it has not worked. It is simply too expensive to run, too difficult to get all the countries to agree. So they are trying again,” Allison explained.