AU seeks ICJ opinion on head of state immunities | Witnesses take stand in two ICC trials

UN Secretary General poses for a group photo with African Union leaders at the opening of their Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia © United Nations

AU seeks opinion on head of state immunities from top UN court

The 30th session of the African Union Summit of Heads of State and Government concluded this week in Addis Ababa with the regional body agreeing to move forward with a request to seek an advisory opinion from the UN’s highest court – the International Court of Justice – on the question of immunities of heads of state and government and other senior officials.

The move comes following years of legal wrangling around the execution of the International Criminal Court arrest warrants for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has travelled to several African countries that are states parties to the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding treaty.

Allan Ngari, Senior Researcher with the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria:

“[…] If framed correctly by the UNGA, an Advisory Opinion of the ICJ presents an opportunity to resolve the differences in interpretation of the question of immunities from prosecution for sitting heads of state before the ICC and possibly the corresponding obligations on States and non-States parties with the cooperation regime of the ICC [..].”

Witnesses take stand in two ICC trials

January saw the resumption of two ICC trials with suspected Lord’s Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen, and for Ivoiruan president Laurent Gbagbo and youth leader Charles Blé Goudé hearings returning after a break to prosecution witnesses.

The Jean-Pierre Bemba appeal hearings also concluded this month after discussions concerning the legal characterisation of the the level of knowledge a commander should have regarding his subordinates’ crimes in order to be held liable under command responsibility for them.

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