By Femi Falana
After months of prevarication, the African Union (AU) eventually suspended Sudan from the continental organisation last week. The suspension was sequel to the brutal massacre of 150 peaceful protesters by the reactionary military junta that is desperately bent on hijacking the popular revolt against military dictatorship in Sudan.
While the suspension of Sudan from the AU is a welcomed development, it should be pointed out that it has no serious impact on the junta, and is not enough to address the issues of the accountability of perpetrators and justice for the victims. The AU should therefore mobilise member states of the United Nations to isolate Sudan and place travel bans on the officials of the military junta.
The AU should also fully pursue the prosecution of violations of international criminal law and international human rights law by the authorities through the immediate establishment of a hybrid court for Sudan. The hybrid court statute should set out the court’s jurisdiction over serious crimes under international law and relevant laws of Sudan.
The proposed hybrid court would ensure accountability for perpetrators, justice for the victims and contribute to strengthening and complementing the national justice system.
Since ex-president of Chad, Mr. Hissène Habré was successfully tried and convicted by a special tribunal in Senegal for crimes against humanity, the AU should ensure that ex-military dictator, Omar Bashir is not handed over to the International Criminal Court but tried by the proposed hybrid court or transferred to Senegal for his trial over the genocidal attacks on the people of Darfur.
Accountability for human rights violations and abuses in Sudan should be a priority for the AU, consistent with its Constitutive Act. It is the impunity of perpetrators that has been the major factor for the perpetuation of the human rights crisis in Sudan.
Although Sudan has been suspended by the AU, the country remains a state party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Therefore, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights should order a fact-finding mission to investigate serious human rights violations and abuses, including the barbaric massacre of the peaceful protesters by the military junta. The African Commission can no longer remain silent in the face of the human rights crisis and impunity of perpetrators in Sudan.
The African Commission has the powers under the African Charter to carry out the proposed investigation, including under Article 45, which gives the Commission the authority to conduct research into human rights practices and to give its views and recommendations to governments, as well as to co-operate with other African and international institutions concerned with the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights. Under article 46 of the African Charter, the African Commission is empowered to use “any appropriate method of investigation.”
The members of the ruling junta indicted in the investigation should be recommended for criminal prosecution in an African country that is clothed with universal jurisdiction.
Finally, we call on all progressive forces and democratic organisations in Africa to show solidarity with the people of Sudan in their historic resolve to terminate unending military rule and impunity in their country.
Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), writes from Lagos.