As we approach the end of the 2010s , Africa Legal News revisits 10 legal cases that defined Africa’s decade. On the international and domestic legal scene, there were significant developments where court cases played a critical role in shaping the political, social and legal history of Africa. Africa Legal News has researched on the ten cases that made a significant impact on Africa in the 2010s decade. We will serialise these in 3 parts. The first installment looks at the cases concerning former Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi and South African athlete Oscar Pistorius.
1. Omar Al Bashir of Sudan and the International Criminal Court
Africa has had a contentious history with the International Criminal Court. The ICC is an international court established by what is known as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (“the Rome Statute”). The mandate of the Court is to try individuals (rather than States) and to hold such persons accountable for the most severe crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, namely the crime of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression when the conditions for the exercise of the Court’s jurisdiction over the latter are fulfilled.
According to the Rome Statute, Any State Party to the Rome Statute can request the Office of the Prosecutor to carry out an investigation. A State not a party to the Statute can also accept the jurisdiction of the ICC for crimes committed in its territory or by one of its nationals, and request the Office of the Prosecutor to carry out an investigation. The United Nations Security Council may also refer a situation to the Court.
The case concerning the 7th President of Sudan, Omar Al Bashir came to the world attention with the issuance, by the ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, of the First Warrant of Arrest on 4 March 2009. The Prosecutor issued the Second Warrant of Arrest against President Al Bashir on 12 July 2010. The warrants ignited much debate given the gross human rights violations occurring in Sudan.
Omar al Bashir was referred to the Court by the Security Council. The role of the UN Security Council has been problematic obviously because one of the most potent permanent seats on the Security Council is held by the United States, which is not a party to the Rome Statute.
The intentions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court on holding to account all alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violations, regardless of official capacity, are undoubtedly noble in spirit but utopian in the real world as it stands at present. The almost-a-decade long attempt to arraign President Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir of the Republic of Sudan before the International Criminal Court (ICC) has had its share of drama, except that human rights violations are no laughing matter. The ICC has come across the realities and difficulties of discounting official capacity of an alleged perpetrator of serious human rights violations.
Omar Al Bashir was finally ousted in a popular and military-led uprising on 11 April 2019. He has been held at Khartoum’s Kobar prison charged with “inciting and participating in” the killing of protesters. He is set to be transferred to the International Criminal Court.
Omar al-Bashir charge sheet ranges from genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes
Genocide: Killing members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups; Causing these groups serious bodily or mental harm; Inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about these groups’ physical destruction
Crimes against humanity: Murder; Extermination; Forcible transfer; Rape; Torture
War crimes: Attacks on civilians in the Darfur Region; Pillaging towns and villages
2. Mohammed Morsi, the ousted President of Egypt
Mohamed Morsi Issa Al-Ayyat was the elected President of Egypt from 2012 to 2013. He led the Freedom and Justice Party from 2011 to 2012. The party was affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Though Morsi became president of Egypt following the Egyptian revolution in 2011, he did not stay long, being ousted by an army supported uprising in 2013. The ouster led to the court proceedings being launched against the former President in Egypt.
Morsi (and his aides) faced four main criminal charges: inciting a militia to kill peaceful protestors, insulting the judiciary, collaborating with foreign governments and entities to harm national security, and breaking out of prison. Morsi refuted the accusations against him. If Morsi were to be found guilty of the alleged offences, he faced long-term imprisonment or the death penalty.
Ultimately Morsi as sentenced to death in 2015, though the courts overturned the sentence and ordered a retrial.
On 17 June 2019, Morsi collapsed in Court during his trial and later died. The cause was a heart attack.
3. The Oscar Pistorius Trial in South Africa
On Valentine’s Day in 2013, the world woke up to the news that sportsman Oscar Pistorius had shot and killed his lawyer girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
The case gripped the world and South Africa.
Pistorius was well known as a sprinter and was nicknamed the “Blade Runner.” Despite being amputated in both legs as an infant, at 16 he took up running. He won a gold medal at the Athens Paralympics in 2004. In 2012, he competed in track events at the Olympics.
On 14 February 2013, his girlfriend Steenkamp was found shot and killed with bullet wounds to the head and one arm.
The Pistorius trial began on 3 March 2014. Pistorius was charged with premeditated murder and two separate gun indictments. He pleaded not guilty to all charges. He claimed that he was frightened in his home at the noise of an unknown intruder, and shot at the bathroom door.
Judge Thokozile Masipa presided over the widely televised trial. Judge Masipa on 11 September 2014 found Pistorius not guilty of premeditated murder. Pistorius was later found guilty of culpable homicide. In October 2014, he was sentenced to five years in prison.
In 2015, an appeal was lodged with the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein. By a unanimous decision, five Supreme Court judges overturned Pistorius’ culpable homicide conviction and found him guilty of murder in the death of Reeva Steenkamp. The Court believed that a misinterpretation of laws combined with a dismissal of circumstantial evidence had caused prosecutors to offer the lesser charge of culpable homicide in 2014.
Pistorius was then sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for murder. This was appealed again and in 2017 the Supreme Court of Appeal more than doubled Pistorius’s prison term to 15 years with time served counting towards the sentence leaving 13 years and five months.
10 Influential Female Lawyers who defined Africa’s Decade (Part 2 of 2)
Africa Legal News researched on major legal events and persons who shaped Africa’s decade in the 2010s. The second installment on female lawyers is here.
Part of the AfricaLegalNews Africa in the 2010s Series
Africa Legal News researched on major legal events and persons who shaped Africa’s decade in the 2010s. The first instalment is here. In this second instalment on female lawyers, we feature Rose Ntumba Kaja (DRC), Raja Nicola Eissa Abdel-Masih (Sudan), Bensaoula Chafika (Algeria), Julia Sebutinde (Uganda) and Joyce Aluoch (Kenya).
6. Rose Ntumaba Kaja (DRC)
Rose Ntumaba Kaja is a lawyer from the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2014 she was elected to be the first female president of the Lubumbashi Bar in Katanga. She was elected for a three-year term.
Rose Tumba Kaja obtained her license in economic and social law with distinction from the University of Lubumbashi (Unilu) in 1993. She began her law practice in 1998. She also lectured at the Faculty of Law of the University of Lubumbashi. In 2002, she became a founding member of the international criminal bar in Montreal, Canada. She has been on the list of advisers to the International Criminal Court in The Hague since 2005.
In her statement, after the election to the Lubumbashi Bar, Ntumba Kaja indicated the need for women’s equality.
” In our profession, there is no sex on the toga. There is nothing particular that I want to bring as a woman if it is not my experience and my professional maturity. I indeed have the heart of a woman and a mother. But I will be the pater familias of all lawyers . ” said Rose Ntumba Kaja as reported by Radio Okapi.
7.Raja Nicola Eissa Abdel-Masih (Sudan)
On 21 August 2019, Raja Nicola Eissa Abdel-Masih was one of six civilians appointed to the 11-member Sovereignty Council of Sudan. She was the choice of both the Forces of Freedom and Change alliance and the Transitional Military Council.
The eleven-member Sovereignty Council of Sudan is the collective head of state of Sudan, for 39 months starting 20 August 2019 and ending in November 2022. The August 2019 Draft Constitutional Declaration created the council.
The Draft Constitutional Declaration provides that the Council be composed of five civilians chosen by the Forces of Freedom and Change alliance, five military representatives selected from by the Transitional Military Council, and a civilian selected by agreement between the FFC and TMC.
Abdel-Masih worked as a judge in the Sudanese Ministry of Justice in Khartoum from 1982 until her 2019 appointment to the Sovereignty Council.
Abdel-Masih graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from Cairo University in 1980.
8.Bensaoula Chafika (Algeria)
Bensaoula Chafika from Algeria was elected judge of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in January 2017 during the 28th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, for a six-year term.
Dr Bensaoula is also a lecturer at the National School of Magistracy in Algeria. She has held several key positions in the judiciary and administration of Algeria, including Judge at the Criminal Affairs Chambers for cases involving delinquents, Judge at the Court of Appeal, Member of the Board of Directors of the Institut de Droit et Justice, Inspector of Administrative and Judicial Courts.
As an academic, she has authored many works such as :
- The issue of mediation in Algerian Civil and Administrative Procedure Code ;
- Conciliation in Administrative Matters ;
- Enforcement of administrative judgments by the administration ;
- The use of audio-visual evidence.
Dr Bensaoula speaks Arabic, English and French.
Dr Bensaoula holds a Doctorate Degree in Public Law.
9.Julia Sebutinde (Uganda)
Julia Sebutinde is a judge from Uganda who seats on the International Court of Justice.
Judge Julia Sebutinde made history by becoming the first African woman to sit on the International Court of Justice bench. She was nominated by Croatia, Denmark, and Uganda. She became a judge of the ICJ in March 2012.
Before her election to the ICJ, Judge Julia Sebutinde was a judge of the Special Court for Sierra Leone since 2007.
She will be one of the judges hearing the case of Myanmar’s human rights violations against the Rohingyas, which was submitted by The Gambia.
Judge Sebutinde graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from Makerere University in 1977. She obtained a Diploma in Legal Practice from the Law Development Center in Kampala, Uganda in 1978. The judge also holds a Master of Laws from the University of Edinburgh in 1991. In 2009, in recognition of her body of work and contribution to international justice, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws by the University of Edinburgh as well.
10. Joyce Aluoch (Kenya)
Joyce Aluoch was a Judge of the International Criminal Court for most of the 2010s decade. She is a lawyer from Kenya and former judge of the High Court of Kenya.
Lady Joyce Aluoch was elected to the International Criminal Court in 2009 from the African group of states. At the ICC, she dealt with critical cases such as the situations in Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the cases of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi (Libya), Ahmad al-Mahdi (Mali), the Gaza flotilla raid and the case of Jean-Pierre Bemba.
In 2015, she became the first women to be elected Vice President of the ICJ.
Lady Justice Aluoch holds a Law Degree from the University of Nairobi, a Diploma in Legal Studies from the Kenya School of Law and a Master’s Degree in International Relations obtained in 2008 from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.
10 Influential Female Lawyers who defined Africa’s Decade (Part 1 of 2)
Africa Legal News researched on major legal events and persons who shaped Africa’s decade in the 2010s. In this first instalment, we feature Fatou Bensouda of the International Criminal Court, Thuli Madonsela of South Africa, Catherine Samba-Panza of the Central African Republic, Marie Thérèse Mukamulisa of Rwanda and Beatrice Mtetwa of Zimbabwe.
Part of the AfricaLegalNews Africa in the 2010s Series
Female lawyers shaped the history of Africa in the 2010s. They did so in various fields ranging from international humanitarian law, human rights, the environment, international relations and in domestic and international politics. Africa Legal News researched on major legal events and persons who shared Africa’s decade in the 2010s. In this first instalment, we feature Fatou Bensouda of the International Criminal Court, Thuli Madonsela of South Africa, Catherine Samba-Panza of the Central African Republic, Marie Thérèse Mukamulisa of Rwanda and Beatrice Mtetwa of Zimbabwe.
1.Fatou Bensouda (The Gambia)
Fatou Bensouda is a lawyer from The Gambia who has been the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court since 2012.
In 2019, she took centre stage when she requested to launch an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in 2003 and 2004 by the Taliban, Afghan government forces, and US soldiers and CIA officers. Powerful states such as the US went out of their way to revoke her visa when she wanted to investigate the Afghan related crimes of the United States.
In 2019, Bensouda announced that following a “thorough, independent and objective assessment of all reliable information available” to her Office, the preliminary examination into the Situation in Palestine had been concluded. She indicated that “all the statutory criteria under the Rome Statute for the opening of an investigation” against Israel.
Bensouda was elected by consensus to be Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court by the Assembly of States Parties in December 2011. She was sworn in on 15 June 2012.
Bensouda also worked as Legal Adviser and Trial Attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, and rose to become Senior Legal Advisor and Head of The Legal Advisory Unit.
In the past, Bensouda also took part in negotiations on the treaty of the Economic Community of West African States, the West African Parliament and the ECOWAS Tribunal. She served as a delegate to United Nations conferences on crime prevention, the Organization of African Unity’s Ministerial Meetings on Human Rights, and as a delegate of The Gambia to the meetings of the Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court.
Bensouda holds a Master’s degree in International Maritime Law and Law of The Sea.
2.Thulisile Nomkhosi “Thuli” Madonsela (South Africa)
The days of the Jacob Zuma presidency in South Africa can never be complete without a mention of Advocate Thuli Madonsela. Madonsela served as the Public Protector of South Africa from 19 October 2009 to 14 October 2016.
She fearlessly investigated corruption and released several critical reports aimed at encouraging public accountability and good governance.
Her most critical reports were the State of Capture, and Secure in Comfort reports. The latter touched on abuse of funds in the security-related re-construction of President’s Zuma’s rural home. The former investigated alleged improper and unethical conduct by the President and other state functionaries relating to alleged inappropriate relationships and involvement of the Gupta family in the removal and appointment of Ministers and Directors of State-Owned Enterprises resulting in the improper and possibly corrupt award of state contracts and benefits to the Gupta family’s businesses.
Her courage was inspirational around the world.
Madonsela holds a BA in Law from the University of Swaziland, an LLB from the University of the Witwatersrand and a Doctor of Laws degree, LL. D. (Honoris causa) from the University of Stellenbosch.
3. Catherine Samba-Panza (Central African Republic)
The Central African Republic saw one of the most fearsome civil wars in the 2010s. In stepped Catherine Samba-Panza. Samba-Panza, a lawyer, was chosen as interim President of the Central African Republic in January 2014 to lead the country after periods of sectarian killings.
Samba-Panza became Africa’s third female head of state. The others were President Joyce Banda of Malawi and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia.
On 30 March 2016, Catherine Samba-Panza handed over power to President-elect Faustin-Archange Touadéra.
For taking leadership in a time of great crisis, she was one of the most influential figures in the 2010s.
4.Marie Thérèse Mukamulisa (Rwanda)
Marie Thérèse Mukamulisa is a lawyer from Rwanda. In 2016, she was appointed to a six-year term on the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
In the past, she was a lecturer in Comparative Law at the University of Rwanda and a Judge of the Supreme Court of Rwanda.
Her appointment at the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights had at times been met with controversy though, due to Rwanda’s position on the locus standi on non-governmental organisations.
Mukamulisa holds a degree in Civil Law from the University of Rwanda, an LLB (Common law) from the University of Moncton, Canada (1993) and a Masters in Genocide Studies and Prevention from the Center for Conflict Management, University of Rwanda.
5. Beatrice Mtetwa (Zimbabwe)
Beatrice Mtetwa is one of the top Zimbabwean human rights lawyers and activists. She is a past President of the Law Society of Zimbabwe and is a leading member of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
Mtetwa represented journalists and voluntary organisations affected by oppressive laws in Zimbabwe. She has herself been a victim of state violence.
She has received awards for her work such as the International Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize, the 2010 International Human Rights Award of the American Bar Association, the 2011 Inamori Ethics Prize by Case Western Reserve University. She was a recipient of the International Women of Courage Award in 2014.
Mtetwa holds an LLB from the University of Botswana and Swaziland.
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