NEW YORK – At its recent summit meeting in Equatorial Guinea, the African Union formalized its decision to expand the jurisdiction of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights to include international crimes, such as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. On a continent where populations have suffered extensively from such crimes, the AU’s move might at first seem like an important step toward increasing accountability. But, as the accompanying amendment to grant immunity from prosecution to sitting heads of state and senior officials clearly demonstrates, it is actually a transparent effort to let guilty parties off scot-free.
Since the United Nations Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in 1993, international criminal justice has come a long way. Indeed, despite intense scrutiny and agonizingly slow trials, several more special tribunals have been established to hold individuals accountable for large-scale crimes committed in countries like Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, and Lebanon. Moreover, the ICTY was instrumental in the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2002, which has acted on crimes committed in several more countries.