Zambia: Support International Criminal Court

Zambia should reaffirm its membership in the International Criminal Court to best advance justice for victims of atrocities, a group of African organizations and international nongovernmental organizations with a presence in Africa said today.

Zambia’s government began public consultations on the country’s ICC membership the week of March 27, 2017. This was in response to the African Union summit’s adoption in January of an “ICC withdrawal strategy.” An unprecedented 16 countries, including Zambia, entered reservations to this decision.

“Zambia has much to gain by staying with the ICC,” said Boniface Cheembe, executive director of Zambia’s Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes. “Zambia has been a role model on the continent in matters of peace, democracy, and human rights. Leaving the ICC would erode the country’s leadership and threaten respect for the rights of victims of the most brutal crimes across Africa.”

The organizations, which have long worked together to support justice for grave crimes in Africa, also released an updated video featuring African activists on the importance of the ICC in Africa.

As a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), Zambia has a proud history in the establishment of the ICC, the organizations said. SADC was active in the diplomatic conference in Rome in 1998 where the ICC’s treaty was finalized after six weeks of negotiations. SADC members developed 10 principles for an effective, independent, and impartial court at a meeting in Pretoria in 1997.

The ICC is a groundbreaking achievement in the fight against impunity, the organizations said. It is the first and only global criminal court that can prosecute individuals responsible for atrocities. It is a court of last resort in that it has the authority to try genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed since 2002, but only when national courts are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute. Since the court’s treaty opened for signature in 1998, 124 countries have become members.

Zambia signed the ICC’s Rome treaty on July 17, 1998, the day it opened for signature, and ratified the treaty on November 13, 2000.

The ICC faces many challenges in meeting the expectations of victims of mass atrocities and member countries, the organizations said. Its inability to reach crimes committed in some powerful countries and their allies is a cause for deep concern, even as claims that the ICC is targeting Africa are not supported by the facts. The court’s reach is limited to crimes committed on the territories of countries that have joined the court or offered the court authority on its territory, absent a referral by the United Nations Security Council.

“The ICC has room for improvement, but it offers hope to victims who have nowhere else to turn for justice,” said Dewa Mavhinga, Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The court serves African victims who have suffered atrocities.”

The majority of ICC investigations in Africa have arisen in response to requests or grants of authority by governments in the countries where the crimes were committed – as in Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and Uganda – or through referrals by the UN Security Council – as in Darfur, Sudan and Libya.

The ICC has faced backlash from some African leaders since it issued arrest warrants for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for alleged genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Darfur in 2009 and 2010. In 2016, evidence of the backlash reached new heights when South Africa, Burundi, and Gambia announced they would withdraw from the court, the first countries to take such action.

Gambia has rescinded its withdrawal and South Africa is also re-examining withdrawal, making Burundi the only country to have maintained its withdrawal. Under the ICC Statute, withdrawal goes into effect one year after the state party submits a notification to the UN Secretary-General.

In the wake of the announced withdrawals, many African countries – including Botswana, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Lesotho, Mali, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Tunisia – have affirmed their commitment to remain in the ICC and to work for any reform as ICC members.

“We would encourage Zambia to reaffirm its support for the court, particularly in the absence of any functioning regional criminal court that can hold perpetrators to account,” said Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, executive director,
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Japan Supports UN Humanitarian Air Service in Sudan

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed a generous contribution of US$1 million from Japan to the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) in Sudan, which is managed by WFP.

WFP will use this contribution to continue to provide reliable and safe air services through UNHAS to the humanitarian community, enabling travel to remote and hard-to-reach locations across Darfur and in central and eastern Sudan.

“Service of UNHAS is vital, both for people in need and to the humanitarian community. Without the services UNHAS provides, it would be quite difficult to continue humanitarian assistance for people in need who live in remote areas. It is my pleasure for Japan to financially support UNHAS along with other donors,” said Japanese Ambassador Hideki Ito.

Japan is an important donor to UNHAS in Sudan, contributing a total of US$10.7 million over the past five years towards the service. These contributions have enabled WFP to provide much needed assistance to food insecure populations across the country and allowed UNHAS to continue serving the humanitarian community in Sudan.

“WFP is grateful to the Government and people of Japan for their continued support to our operations in Sudan. This contribution reflects their commitment and will ensure that UNHAS will continue flying humanitarian aid workers to locations where their help is needed most by vulnerable groups across the country,” said WFP Sudan Representative Matthew Hollingworth.

In 2016, UNHAS flew a total of 4,280 hours, providing its critical service to 22,158 passengers from 78 organizations, including UN and NGO staff, government officials, donor representatives and diplomats. It also transported 120 metric tons of light cargo and carried out 13 medical evacuations.

Established in Sudan in 2004, UNHAS is run by a steering committee comprising representatives of UN agencies, NGOs and donors, but is directly managed by WFP Sudan. Currently, UNHAS has a fleet of five aircraft, including two fixed-wing aircraft and three helicopters. While the fixed-wing aircraft provide air shuttle services from Khartoum to the three Darfur state capitals, the helicopters facilitate humanitarian travel to areas that are inaccessible by road, either due to insecurity or poor road conditions.

Distributed by APO on behalf of World Food Programme (WFP).

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MONUSCO takes note of recent developments in the DRC and stresses the urgent need for strict implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement

The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO), Maman Sidikou, continues to follow recent developments in the country closely and has taken note in this regard, of the appointment by President Joseph Kabila, on 7 April 2017, of a new Prime Minister, Mr. Bruno Tshibala. He has equally taken note of the Rassemblement’s response to the President’s decision, as expressed in its press release of 9 April 2017.
The Special Representative underscores the weighty responsibility that all Congolese political stakeholders bear at this critical juncture in their country’s history, especially in ensuring that they are guided with restraint and the spirit of dialogue which is needed now more than ever. It behooves all Congolese stakeholders to put the national interest and their people’s aspirations for well-being and good governance above all other considerations.
Only by so doing will they be able to consolidate the hard earned gains of peace and stability obtained with the steadfast support of the international community and ensure a consensus-based transition towards free, fair and transparent elections, in keeping with the Constitution. In this regard, the Special Representative recalls once more that there is no alternative to the full and faithful implementation of the 31 December 2016 Agreement facilitated by the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (CENCO). He seized the opportunity to pay tribute to CENCO on behalf of the United Nations for its tireless efforts and steadfast commitment to dialogue and to defending the national interest.
The Special Representative reiterates MONUSCO’s commitment, in accordance with Security Council resolution 2348, to spare no effort in helping to ensure, in close coordination with relevant international partners, notably the African Union, the strict implementation of the December 31 Political Agreement. More specifically, the Special Representative underlines his continued availability, through his good offices, to support any national effort aimed at creating conditions conducive to the full mobilization of the international community and ensuring that it effectively supports the political process.
In the meantime, MONUSCO will continue, to the best of its ability and within available means, to discharge its mandate of protecting the civilian population, bearing in mind that this is primarily the responsibility of the DRC authorities.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Mission de l’Organisation des Nations unies en République démocratique du Congo (MONUSCO).

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Palm Sunday Bombings in Egypt

The Australian Government condemns the Palm Sunday bombings in Egypt in the strongest possible terms.

These brutal and appalling attacks took the lives of many innocent people during a day of religious worship, and followed a similar senseless bombing of an Egyptian Coptic church in December 2016.

Our thoughts are with the victims and their families and with the people of Egypt at this sad and difficult time. It is crucial that these attacks be investigated and the perpetrators brought to Justice.

The Australian Embassy in Cairo is monitoring the situation closely and is in contact with Egyptian authorities to determine whether any Australians have been affected.

Australians concerned about the safety of family or friends who may have been affected should contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade:
Within Australia: 1300 555 135.
Outside Australia: +61 2 6261 3305, SMS +61 421 269 080.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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