Approaching International Criminal Justice Holistically
Southern Africa Litigation Centre
“Approaching International Criminal Justice Holistically”
- Introduction : My background and more about SALC and how it works
- Vote of thanks
- I hope to contribute today by way of analogy. I would like to share our experiences in Southern Africa and as an organisation when it comes to seeking accountability for heinous crimes. Whilst the North Korean situation is very different and faces unique challenges I feel that there are still lessons that can be learnt from our context and strategies that can be developed.
- I propose looking at international criminal justice in a holistic manner. As we all know the ICC was designed as a court of last resort and is founded on an understanding and expectation of complementarity. In an ideal world, the ICC would have no cases as domestic jurisdictions would be impartial, efficient and would be in a position to fairly administer justice. Sadly this is not the case. All we have to do is turn on the news for 5 minutes and we are inundated with impunity and the perpetration of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes.
- We are also confronted with an ICC with severe legal and jurisdictional limits. The most obvious problem, which is central to why we are seated here today, is the troublesome and politically flawed UNSC referral mechanism. This is why I feel my topic speaks for itself- we must look at international criminal justice in a holistic manner- approach it from all angles and tackle impunity on all fronts. So instead of expecting the ICC to handle every single international crime – we need to:
1) strengthen and build the capacity of national jurisdictions
2) encourage the domestication of the Rome Statute into national law and if possible include an element of universal jurisdiction which would make sure that there are no safe havens for perpetrators of international crimes. 3) Push for constructive amendments to the Rome Statute.
- Allow me to explain on the first two points and give a practical angle to what I have proposed by using an example of a case brought before the South African Courts by my organisation. This case is commonly known as the Zimbabwe Torture Case – as it pertains to crimes against humanity, perpetrated in Zimbabwe, by Zimbabweans, against Zimbabweans.
- Facts of the case, SA legislation, process, 3 courts, outcome and victory
- I think this case is particularly valuable as you could see similarities as far the situation between North Korea and South Korea. At the time in Zimbabwe, prospects of fair and impartial trials were slim to none and politics were overshadowing what should have been the work of a nonpartisan judiciary. But just across the border – the situation was different – SA is a signatory to the Rome Statute and has domesticated and ratified it as well as the Geneva conventions; SA has a functioning, independent judiciary that is supported by a strict respect for the separation of powers; SA also had vibrant civil society organisations pushing and striving for accountability; and a strong judiciary and legal brains that fought for the domestication of international legislation.
- By the same token – civil society here needs to find ways to obtain justice for the crimes against humanity perpetrated in North Korea and gatherings like this where we are able to share knowledge are extremely valuable and are a vital part of fighting impunity.
- There are no easy or quick solutions but the fight must go on and we must all continue to share in the vision of a world without impunity.
- My organisation is also busy with the pushing for the domestication of ICC legislation in neighbouring African countries and with training for judicial officers to equip with international criminal law knowledge and experience.
- Everything I have proposed involves long term commitment but this is a vital part of the process.