The Chief Justice (CJ) of Ghana, Georgina Theodora Wood has reminded countries in Africa that domestic justice should be the first port of call to ensure that heinous war crimes such as genocide and rape and their perpetrators shall face the full rigours of the law.
Delivering the closing remarks at the GIMPA Law Conference 2016 in Accra, the Chief Justice said the best place for meeting the justice needs of victims and perpetrators alike was at the domestic level. She was however quick to add that history had shown that sometimes domestic legal systems lacked the capacity or were unwilling to render substantial justice to parties seeking it. She reiterated that in such instances, International Criminal Tribunals had been set up to meet this yawning need as for example, from Nuremberg to Tokyo, from Rwanda to the former Yugoslavia, from Sierra Leone to Cambodia and so on.
‘When domestic legal systems fail or are incapable of handling such crimes, it is imperative in my view that the International Community steps in and international criminal justice is administered. Our common sense of humanity, our sense of justice demands nothing less. But this makes it imperative that we in Africa build strong democracies and credible governance institutions, particularly, human rights and law enforcement institutions. Robust justice institutions must engage our urgent attention. We must yearn and nurture men and women imbued with a high sense of integrity and fidelity to the rule of law, to man these institutions if we must avoid institutions like the ICC’, Mrs. Wood said.
The Chief Justice further stated that the otherwise complementary role that the international criminal justice provided to domestic legal systems should be saluted and strongly supported, adding that perpetrators of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes should not be allowed to hide behind domestic legal systems, warning that they should know that the long arm of the law would catch up with them in one way or the other, stating that domestic as a first option, international if that option is clearly unavailable.
Mrs. Wood also indicated that the International Criminal Justice and the ICC must be put in a position to work more effectively. She added that the ICC should be strengthened to ensure that it could do its job effectively, that victims of the gravest crimes of humanity witnessed always had a forum to seek justice for themselves, their loved ones and truly for us all, stating that impunity must have nowhere to belong in the 21st Century.
The Chief Justice congratulated all the participants at the conference, from the world over for their tireless efforts in presenting well-researched papers that would go a long way in shaping the future of international criminal justice in Africa and enhancing the on-going dialogue between the key stakeholders.