EACJ to handle criminal cases
Powers of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) will in the near future involve trial of cases of a criminal nature, including genocide and crimes against humanity.
The EACJ Registrar, Dr John Eudes Ruhangisa, told the Independent East African News Agency (EANA) in an exclusive interview that the changes were in accordance with an equally recent directive from the region’s Heads of State.
“It is true the expansion of the Court’s jurisdiction to include matters involving crimes against humanity is being considered and this is in accordance with the Summit directive. This means that the court will have jurisdiction to handle matters such as genocide and others like the case of the Kenyan suspects now before the ICC,” Prof Ruhangisa says.
Both the Court and East Africa have competent judges who can handle these kinds of matters, he says in the interview to be released soon. The interview, conducted in English, will also be available in Kiswahili and French within the region and beyond. But there is a caveat, he admits. The organizational capacity, the human and financial resources among other things, will be a major challenge. Those matters will have to be solved first, he adds.
For the court to be able to handle matters of a criminal nature, it will require the establishment of a prosecution department, investigation department, witness protection department and prisons where the accused can be remanded pending prosecution and incarceration upon conviction. “It is technically and practically possible but a lot needs to be taken into consideration before moving in that direction,” he advises.
Otherwise, the court has already established sub-registries in all the five partner states that will be launched next month (August). The matter was approved by the region’s Council of Ministers in November last year, Prof Ruhangisa added. The sub-registries will enable the people in the region to know better the work of the EACJ, which together with the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) are among the key integration organs of the now more than a decade old revived East African Community (EAC) that hopes to move gradually to political federation.
The 1994 genocide in Rwanda led to the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) under the United Nations while four Kenyans are currently facing possible trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, Netherlands following the 2007 post-election violence in which hundreds were killed and thousands left homeless and internally displaced.
Should the EACJ move to the next stage of criminal trials, the region would have edged a notch higher in efforts to put its destiny in its own hands and possibly never again to see a repeat of what happened in Rwanda and Kenya. Currently, the EACJ handles mostly civil matters.
By MBONEKO MUNYAGA, Tanzania Daily News
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