Justice ministers discuss Universal Jurisdiction

GASABO - Rwanda’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Tharcisse Karugarama, on Monday, reiterated the country’s support and respect for the principle of ‘Universal Jurisdiction’, which he said should be exercised by competent international bodies set up for that purpose in accordance with well established international procedures and standards.
Justice Minister and Attorney General, Tharcisse Karugarama.
Justice Minister and Attorney General, Tharcisse Karugarama.

GASABO - Rwanda’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Tharcisse Karugarama, on Monday, reiterated the country’s support and respect for the principle of ‘Universal Jurisdiction’, which he said should be exercised by competent international bodies set up for that purpose in accordance with well established international procedures and standards.

Minister Karugarama made these remarks while presiding over the opening ceremony, of the meeting of Ministers of Justice, Attorney Generals and experts on legal matters, representing the 53 African Union (AU) Member states, who converged at Kigali’s Prime Holdings.

In reference to the application of the principle of Universal Jurisdiction, the Minister said no effort would be spared at ensuring that those who commit grave offenses such as genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity do not do so with impunity.

The principle permits a national court to try a person suspected of a serious international crime even if neither the suspect nor the victim are nationals of the country where the court is located, and the crime took place outside that country. He, however, lashed at Judges who abuse this noble principle.

“Rwanda is vehemently opposed to the abusive application of this noble principle especially by local foreign Judges imposing their judicial authority over sovereign states, especially African states, for political gain or any other gain. It tastes bad. It states neo-colonial. There should be regulatory mechanisms to control and check the potential abuse,” Karugarama emphasised.

Participants brainstormed on legal matters regarding the application of the Principle of Universal Jurisdiction. They also discussed the Draft statute of the AU Commission on International Law as they reflected on its harmonisation upon ratification by member states.

In his remarks at the opening of the meeting, Ben Kioko, AU Commission Director Legal Affairs, expressed his admiration of how Rwanda has managed to emerge from the ashes of destruction in so short a period.

“As we meet here in this city, we must remind ourselves of the horrors that were visited on this city and country during the 1994 Genocide and admire with awe how the country has emerged from the ashes of destruction like a phoenix,” he remarked.

This meeting is a follow up on the one which was held at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in April 2008. The protocol on the African Court of Justice and Human rights was considered and recommended to the assembly of Heads-of-State and government for adoption at its 6th Ordinary Session in Sham El sheikh, Egypt in July 2008.

At the session, the assembly adopted the Draft Protocol and requested member States to accelerate the process of signature and ratification.

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