Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo has recommended to governments within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) subregion to consider the establishment of an international tribunal to fight cross border crimes such money laundering, smuggling and human trafficking.
According to her, this has become necessary since there is no mechanism in place to investigate and prosecute offenders, except where individual member states decide to act on their own, with or without the cooperation of other member states.
Delivering a keynote address to open the International Justice Symposium on the theme, “West African International Justice – Leadership, Challenges, and Opportunities” at the Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Center in Accra, Chief Justice Akuffo also suggested that pending the establishment of the international tribunal, domestic courts in member states should be given extra –territorial jurisdiction over nationals of other states whose criminal activities cut across borders.
“When member states have a harmonized judicial and legal system, fighting crime becomes a shared responsibility and easier to achieve results than when it is left to individual member states,” she noted.
She expressed optimism that with the setting up of an institutional framework to deal with such crimes, it will not only inspire confidence in the people but also assist to achieve speedy investigation across borders into alleged crimes and also expeditious trials.
She, however expressed concern about the trials of only African Leaders before the International Criminal Court (ICC) which has led to some countries in Africa threatening to pull out of the ICC; and called for a consideration of the various arguments and concerns put across by aggrieved persons or countries since the survival of the ICC is at stake.
“Since the coming into operation of the Rome Statute on 1st July 2002, most of the trials conducted before the International Criminal Court (ICC) have involved African Leaders. This has led some notable personalities and countries in Africa to suggest that the target of the ICC is discriminatory against Africans. Some member states have taken steps or threatened to pull out of the ICC. The prime question such persons and countries ask is this; is it only African Leaders who have committed and continue to commit what organizers of this symposium have described as atrocity crimes,” she asked.
The two day International Justice Symposium organized by the Wayamo Foundation and the Africa Group for Justice and Accountability (AGJA), in collaboration with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation is aimed at exploring the opportunity and assessing the challenges in the fight to achieve justice and accountability for atrocities in the sub-region.
The conference, which is been attended by international experts on international criminal justice and transnational organized crime, academics and members of civil society is to critically assess the contributions of West Africa to global justice and the continuing challenges to achieving justice for atrocity crimes in the region.
Issues highlight of the discussions focused on West Africa country responses, challenges and successes in tackling international crimes; sexual and gender-based violence; and the International Criminal Court in West Africa, among others.
Benjamin Nana Appiah/ arddaily.com