Call for extension of EA Court jurisdiction

East African citizens have the right to push for the extension of jurisdiction of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to handle war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide cases, the court’s top judge has said.
Minister Mukaruliza (R) chats with Businge during the workshop. The New Times/ Timothy Kisambira.
Minister Mukaruliza (R) chats with Businge during the workshop. The New Times/ Timothy Kisambira.

East African citizens have the right to push for the extension of jurisdiction of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to handle war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide cases, the court’s top judge has said.

Justice Johnson Busingye, the Principal Judge of the regional court, believes that even though currently the court does not have the mandate to handle such crimes, it has competent judges and lawyers to handle criminal related cases. 

The court, which opened in 2001, has jurisdiction over matters of the interpretation and application of the Treaty establishing the EAC, disputes between employees and the bloc and arbitration in commercial disputes.

The court gets its mandate from the citizens.

“The extension of court’s jurisdiction has nothing to do with the court. East Africans have the mandate to seek extension of jurisdiction and I don’t think that International Criminal Court will complain,” said Busingye.

He was speaking at a two-day workshop organised by Ministry of East African Community Affairs, for the legal and judicial practitioners on harmonisation of national laws into the East African Community as stipulated in the Treaty, as well as understanding the regional legal dynamics.

The issue of the regional court has always elevated concern among legal experts and citizens, who wonder why suspected criminals are referred to the ICC that doesn’t understand the regional matters.

Busingye observed that some people do not believe in the operations of ICC since it seems to be targetting only Africans, and argued that for that anxiety to be eliminated, there is a need to focus on empowering the regional court.

Rwanda is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that establishes the ICC.

Monique Mukaruliza, the Minister for EAC, while addressing the participants, reiterated the need for the community to extend the court’s jurisdiction.

On the harmonisation of laws, the minister criticised some partner states that are still dragging their feet, adding that it was hampering the integration process.

“There is slow pace in harmonisation of laws among other partner states. We (Rwanda) have been trying to align at least every law that is adopted but in other countries it’s different and it’s hindering the integration process,” she said.

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