Lawyers from Southern Africa call on African countries and the UN Security Council to support the ICC

18 December 2008

The Southern Africa Development Community Lawyers’ Association (SADC LA) today issued a statement reaffirming the importance of international criminal justice efforts in Africa, calling on African countries to support the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a crucial component of broader efforts to end impunity for international crimes and to promote peace.

The Statement follows a two-day workshop organised by the SADC LA, the International Bar Association (IBA) and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS). Focusing on ‘International Criminal Justice in Southern Africa: Relevance, Lessons and Prospects,’ the workshop brought together Lawyers Association Presidents, academics and leading law practitioners from eleven SADC countries.

The Statement requested the United Nations Security Council to respect fully the independence of the ICC and its judicial processes by exercising caution in requesting article 16 deferrals of prosecutions. In addition, it urged sub-regional, regional and international leaders to take urgent action on Zimbabwe to ensure that impunity does not prevail. Mark Ellis, IBA Executive Director, commented: ‘it is critically important that African lawyers speak in one voice to demand full accountability for gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed in Zimbabwe.’

The Statement reaffirmed the importance of the ICC's work in Africa and rejected the notion that the ICC is a 'Western creation’; on the contrary, African lawyers and civil society representatives have been actively engaged in the creation and life of the Court. SADC bar leaders called on member states to ratify the Rome Statute and to adopt ICC implementing legislation and cooperation agreements. To date only one country in SADC has in place legislation that meets the requirements enumerated under the Rome Statute.

A key challenge in building support for the ICC is strengthening the capacity of domestic criminal justice officials and legal practitioners. The IBA continues to address this issue, and facilitated a debate on engaging lawyers, lawyers’ associations, civil society and regional/sub-regional organisations in this process. Liliana De Marco Coenen, Head of the IBA outreach programme on the ICC, commented: ‘This Statement, as well as public interest litigation by lawyers’ groups in Africa demanding full implementation of Rome Statute obligations at the national level demonstrate the potential of proactive engagement by lawyers in international justice initiatives. To build a truly complementary system of international justice it is essential for the ICC to nourish its relationship with lawyers’ associations around the globe’.

Click here for the text of the SADC LA Statement.


For further information please contact:

Liliana De Marco Coenen
Head, IBA Outreach Programme (ICC)

IBA/ICC Monitoring and Outreach Programme
The Peace Palace
Carnegieplein 2
2517 KJ The Hague
The Netherlands
Tel +31(0)70 302 2827


Note to the Editor

Under article 16 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, a decision can be made to defer an ICC investigation or prosecution for a period of 12 months upon request by the Security Council. Chapter VII of the UN Charter empowers the Security Council to take measures to ‘maintain or restore international peace and security’. Under article 27 of the UN Charter a decision to defer an ICC investigation or prosecution under article 16 of the Rome Statute requires an affirmative vote by nine members of the 15-member Security Council.

The International Bar Association (IBA) is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. The IBA influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world. It has a membership of 30 000 individual lawyers and more than 195 bar associations and law societies spanning all continents. In 2005, the Human Rights Institute of the IBA commenced an ICC Monitoring and Outreach Programme with funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The monitoring component analyses developments at the ICC focusing on the fair trial rights of the accused, the implementation of the 1998 Rome Statute, the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, and related ICC documents. The outreach component to the Programme works in partnership with bar associations, lawyers and civil society organisations disseminating information and promoting debate on the ICC. Findings and recommendations from the Programme are fed back to the Court with a view to creating a dialogue between targeted groups and the Court.