PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s refusal to ratify the protocol on the African Court on Human and People’s Rights is frustrating efforts to widen the monitoring of governments’ observance of human rights, the court’s officials have said.
Herbert Moyo/Elias Mambo
During a media tour of the court organised by Thomson Reuters Foundation last Wednesday, officials at the African Court said Mugabe, who is the African Union (AU) chair, should be leading by example.
The court, based in Arusha, Tanzania, was established through a protocol of the AU in Burkina Faso in 1998 and only came into force in 2004.
So far 28 out of 54 AU member states have ratified the protocol, paving the way for the court’s jurisdiction in civil matters, but Mugabe has reportedly refused to budge despite years of attempts to get him to sign.
“We have engaged the Zimbabwean government over the past three years, but to no avail. I would not know why President Mugabe is refusing to ratify (it) — he is my president in the AU,” said one court official who requested anonymity.
Another official, however, revealed that a team from the court would soon be visiting Zimbabwe to carry out “sensitisation work among non-governmental organisations and ordinary Zimbabweans”.
“We have been given permission to come anytime from May to July and we hope this will assist in spreading the message about the court,” said the official on the sidelines of the tour.
The court has so far heard 37 cases and given verdicts on 24 since 2009. One of the cases currently before it is that of the Ogiek community that is suing the Kenyan government claiming consistent violations and denial of their land rights through forced evictions without consultation or compensation from their ancestral home in the Mau Forest. Mugabe has also refused to ratify the International Criminal Court (ICC), claiming among other things that it is always targeting African headQs of state while turning a “blind eye” to crimes by Western leaders.
Government sources say Mugabe is lobbying African countries to pull out of the ICC for its alleged bQias against them.
“Armed with new powers as both AU and Sadc chairperson, Mugabe is pushing for a resolution to pull out of the ICC to top the agenda for the AU summit scheduled for June in South Africa,” said a source.
Mugabe could be supported by long-serving presidents such as Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
Museveni, like Mugabe, has already taken strong exception to the trial by ICC of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, describing The Hague-based court as “a biased instrument of post-colonial hegemony”.
Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto were facing trial for crimes against humanity emanating from the highly charged 2007 presidential polls in Kenya that claimed the lives of over 1 000 people.
Mugabe has been quoted in the state media advising Kenyatta not to appear at The Hague to respond to the charges, alleging that the court is heavily biased against African leaders. The ICC has since withdrawn charges against Kenyatta and Ruto citing the Kenyan government’s refusal to hand over evidence critical to the case.
In his closing remarks at the 24th AU summit in Addis Ababa in January, Mugabe reiterated his call for Africa to pull out of ICC.
“Africa must pull out of the ICC. The pull-out must be on the June AU summit agenda. What the West will say or do is not my business,” he said.