Since its establishment in 1995, Africa Legal Aid (AFLA) has fulfilled its mission of Making Human Rights a Reality for Africa and its people by strengthening justice sectors, including African Civic Publics, Women’s Groups, the Judiciary, The African Human Rights Machinery, the Legal Fraternity, among others. To ensure maximum impact, AFLA has shared its expertise with international bodies mandated to promote accountability and end impunity in Africa and elsewhere by sensitising them to much needed African Perspectives on Human Rights and International Justice. AFLA has worked closely with the International Criminal Court (ICC) since its establishment in 2003. AFLA also worked with the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
Evelyn A. Ankumah and Luis Moreno Ocampo at AFLA’s Roundtable
Conference at the International Criminal Court (ICC), Feb. 2007
Over the years, AFLA has developed an extensive and impressive network of justice advocates, leading academics and opinion leaders, human rights practitioners, gender experts, judges and prosecutors of national, regional and international courts and tribunals. These have become loyal supporters of AFLA and its activities.
AFLA has executed numerous Capacity Building Workshops and Experts Meetings in several countries. We have provided selected and targeted legal assistance to victims of gross human rights violations and assisted NGOs in doing the same. In addition, AFLA has published several editions of its “flagship journal”, the Africa Legal Aid Quarterly and four volumes in each book series.
Judge Navi Pillay and Hon. Dr Ahmed Fathy Sorour,
during the 1st Expert Meeting in Cairo which prepared the first draft
of the Cairo-Arusha Principles, Egypt 2001
It is of historical importance to note that under the auspices of AFLA, the Cairo-Arusha Principles on Universal Jurisdiction in Respect of Gross Human Rights Offences: an African Perspective was adopted. The Principles, coined ‘the voice of Africa on international criminal justice’, enjoy international recognition and are used for advocacy and lobbying initiatives.
ICC Defence lawyers have credited AFLA and its Executive Director, Evelyn A. Ankumah, for having provided a voice and platform for defence counsels, notably at the 13th Session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) of the International Criminal Court. This, it is acknowledged, was the driving force behind the creation of the International Criminal Court Bar Association (ICCBA) in 2016, and its institutional recognition by the ASP. The ICCBA is an independent representative body of counsel for victims and defence counsels at the ICC.
To coincide with the judgement on the trial of Hissène Habré on 30 May 2016 – the first universal jurisdiction trial on African soil – AFLA held a seminar in Dakar for its target beneficiaries, all present in the Dakar courtroom when the historic judgement was handed down.
AFLA has given exposure to the work of Habré’s victims, their counsels and advocates at the Assembly of States Parties to the ICC and the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union.
AFLA has empowered victims of Gambia’s Jammeh’s reign, bringing them to the African Union and ICC Assemblies, to tell their stories. They include Martin Kyere, the sole survivor of the West African migrant massacres, Ayesha Jammeh whose father and aunt were killed by their own brother Yahya, Fatoumata Sandeng, daughter of slain Gambian activist, Solo Sandeng, and Toufah Jallow, the 23-year-old former beauty queen who accused Jammeh of rape. The impact of AFLA’s victim-centred activities at the ICC Assembly can be summed up in this message of Kenyan justice advocate Njonjo Mue:
‘I just want to thank you so much for the side event on bringing Yahya Jammeh to justice. The testimonies of the victims made it the most important side event of the ASP for me. Once again, thank you for the good work you continue to do for AFLA’.
Justice done at home or close to home has greater impact and legitimacy but that is not always possible. AFLA has been advocating for justice for Jammeh’s victims since 2017 and never shared the ICC Prosecutor’s view that those crimes did not meet the gravity threshold. We are pleased that now both the former and new ICC Prosecutor has confirmed that those crimes do in fact meet the gravity threshold for ICC Prosecution. ICC rules allow the prosecution to take place in the countries and regions where the crimes occurred.
Africa Legal Aid is a recognised and leading voice in human rights and justice developments in Africa. It will continue to provide its invaluable service to translate paper written rights into practical reality for Africa and its people.
In 2020, with a grant from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, AFLA started a programme on ‘A Gender-Sensitive Approach to Mentoring Judges of International Courts and Tribunals’, chaired by Judge Florence Mumba, Judge of the Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC and Former Judge of the Appeals Chamber and Vice President of the ICTY. This programme is designed primarily to benefit male and female judges of the ICC. However, to ensure the sharing of the broadest range of experiences, judges of other international courts and tribunals also participate.