Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo (5th from right on front row) in a group photograph with participants
Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo (5th from right on front row) in a group photograph with participants

The African Union (AU) and ECOWAS have been urged to put in place early warning systems for member states with regards to activities of criminal syndicates especially in regard to human and arms trafficking/smuggling.

Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo said the institutional framework was simply not there across the various states to tackle criminal issues devastating the socio-economic life of the peoples and diverting scarce resources to tackle security issues.

Justice Akuffo made the appeal in an address at the opening of the International Justice Symposium, 2019 at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in Accra on Thursday.

She called for the creation of institutional framework which would inspire confidence in the people, to achieve speedy investigation across borders into alleged crimes and also secure expeditious trials; declaring that the era of adhoc solutions should be a thing of the past.

“When member states have a harmonized judicial and legal system, fighting crime becomes a shared responsibility and easier to achieve results than when it is left to individual member states,” She said.

“Whilst crimes of money-laundering, smuggling, human trafficking and trafficking in arms may not qualify as crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity or crimes of aggression as to bring them within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), their effects are devastating enough as to engage the attention of the international community,” she stressed.

“Thus, an expansion of the mandate of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (ACJHR) and the Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE) or the establishment of an international tribunal to take on criminal trials of such matters, which do not fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC, may be considered in this regard.”

Justice Akuffo said since the coming into operation of the Rome Statute on July 1st, 2002, most of the trials before the ICC had involved African leaders.

She said this had led to some notable personalities and countries in Africa to suggest that the target of the ICC was discriminatory against Africans; saying that, “some member states have taken steps or threatened to pull out of the ICC.

“The prime question such persons and countries ask is this: is it only African leaders who have committed and continue to commit what the organizers of this symposium have described as “atrocity crimes?

“If the answer is no, and surely the answer is no, then why is it that African leaders are predominantly on trial before the ICC?

She said the time was ripe to consider the various arguments and concerns put across by such persons and countries, and not to brush them aside; saying that the very survival of the ICC was at stake.

Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow, AGJA Chair and Chief Justice of The Gambia, said the AGJA was a non-governmental organisation which supports efforts to strengthen justice and accountability measures in Africa through domestic and regional capacity building.

He said the Group provides legal advice to African Governments free of charge.

Mr Peter Wendoh, Project Advisor, Rule of Law Programme for Sub Saharan Africa, Konrad Adenaur Stiftung, Nairobi, said justice and accountability were at the core of the work of the Rule of Law Programme.

Air Vice Marshall Griffiths S. Evans, KAIPTC Commandant, said West Africa had demonstrated a commendable effort in developing and supporting international criminal justice systems, but the need to build national legal systems and also reinforce regional mechanisms was a priority which could not be underestimated.

The two-day symposium on the theme “West Africa International Justice – Leadership, Challenges and Opportunities”, is being organised by the Wayamo Foundation, the Africa Group for Justice and Accountability (AGJA) in collaboration with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung’s Rule of Law Programme for Sub-Saharan Africa and with the support of the KAIPTC.

It seeks to examine and explore the contributions and ongoing challenges facing West Africa in the fight to achieve meaningful justice and accountability for atrocities in the sub-region.

The symposium’s focus is on high profile perpetrators of crimes who are believed to be mainly political leaders.

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