World Day for International Justice | “A Call for ICC to Investigate Election Violence in Africa” by Jamil Sahid Fofanah

Monday, July 17, 2023 - 15:05

On this World Day for International Justice, we share an opinion article by Jamil Sahid Fofanah, a lawyer from Sierra Leone and a recent graduate of Católica Global School of Law. In this piece, Jamil sheds light on the alarming issue of election violence in Africa, emphasizing the urgent need for intervention by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Read the full article below.

A Call for ICC to Investigate Election Violence in Africa

By Jamil Sahid Fofanah

Recent election violence happenings across Africa are significant threats, not just to democracy but to worldwide peace and security. While all political parties may engage in violent acts, the ruling party often has an unfair advantage because it can control the security forces, electoral management bodies, and judiciary through state capture. Therefore, it is essential to bring to the attention of the International Criminal Court (ICC) the recent surge in election violence across the continent.

Global governance for justice and security authorised the ICC to take jurisdiction over cases involving serious violations of international criminal law. If national courts are unable, unwilling, or do not take genuine action to hold those primarily responsible accountable, the ICC may intervene.

Constitutional periodic elections in Africa have brought hope for democracy, allowing power to be peacefully transferred from the people to their elected leaders. For many Africans, this is regarded as a sacred right considering that the continent has a history of undemocratic politics, including colonialism, totalitarianism, military rule, and occasional civil wars or acts of terrorism. The Convention on Civil and Political Rights states that electoral rights go beyond simply voting or running for office. These rights include the right to participate in free and fair elections without any hindrances and prohibit the prosecution or persecution of individuals based on their political affiliations.

Unfortunately, election violence in various African countries, such as Uganda in 2021, Zambia in 2021, and Nigeria and Sierra Leone in 2023, has impeded the progress of democracy on the continent. These violent acts violate essential human rights, including freedom of association and expression. Also, election violence like ethnic cleansing, torture, rape, mass killing, and extra-judicial killings breach international criminal law. It is crucial to note that the alleged perpetrators of these serious crimes are mostly state security forces, ruling party thugs, or militias.

Furthermore, national courts often hesitate to hold violators of electoral laws accountable due to the perpetrators’ political affiliations. This has led to the comeback of repressive regimes that have questionable legitimacy. Unfortunately, these circumstances have caused Africans to lose confidence in election processes and the justice system. There is now a re-emergence of military coups, civil conflicts, and acts of terrorism.

Therefore, the ICC can be crucial in investigating, prosecuting, and punishing those who commit electoral violence. This can help address the problem of election violence and lack of accountability among security officials and election managers in Africa. Eventually, it would help to restore hope for justice, peace, and democracy on the continent.