President. The next item is the debate on six motions for resolutions on impunity in Africa and in particular the case of Hissène Habré(1).
Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), author. – (ES) Mr President, many opportunities are currently opening up in Africa to come to terms with what is often a blood-stained past.
Nevertheless, moving towards peace requires that impunity be combated unequivocally and this means, in turn, that the truth must come to light, however painful that may be, and justice must be done. The trials of Pinochet or Milosevic, though imperfect and sadly incomplete, are clear indications of the direction things should take in Africa as well. Names such as Charles Taylor, Mengistu Haile Mariam and Hissène Habré, amongst others, must be added to the list of ex-dictators who must answer to national and international justice.
There are already various mechanisms for calling people to account by means of ad hoc tribunals for the perpetrators of crimes and atrocities, such as those that exist in relation to Rwanda or Sierra Leone, for example. Unfortunately, however, a lack of resources, and in some cases of political will and of capacity, mean that these tribunals are often inefficient and insufficient.
Combating impunity is undoubtedly one of the pillars of the Union's policy in the field of human rights. We must therefore remember that, without an International Criminal Court to establish individual responsibility as a mechanism for applying the law, acts of genocide and flagrant violations of human rights will often go unpunished.
We would therefore urge the States of the African Union that have yet to ratify the Rome Statute, to do so and to set up an action plan for its effective application as soon as possible.
It would be presumptuous − and that is not my intention − for Europe to lecture Africa, when we too have many open or unresolved cases of impunity or insufficient justice in relation to ex-dictators. But I do firmly believe that this is a task that must be tackled in a universal manner, jointly by Europe and Africa.
Without truth, without justice and without reparations for the victims, peace can be no more than a dream, but combating impunity may help us to one day make that dream a reality.
Jürgen Schröder (PPE-DE), author. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, the case of the former dictator of Chad, Hissène Habré, should not be viewed in isolation but must be considered in the African context, because impunity of former despots is still widespread in Africa. I need only remind you of Charles Taylor from Liberia or Mengistu Haile Mariam from Ethiopia. African Dictators have ruled with extreme violence, suppressed their own people and maintained their positions of power through torture, murder and tyranny. What all of them also have in common is that they have found refuge in other African countries unpunished and have nowhere been called to account.
That is the very thing we can no longer accept, however, because the victims and their families have been fighting for a long time for a trial at which the despots will have to face up to their responsibility. I therefore very much welcome the great amount of progress that has been made in the case of Hissène Habré. In September 2005, a Belgian judge issued an international arrest warrant, as a result of which Hissène Habré was placed under house arrest in Senegal in November.
Senegal has stressed, however, that Hissène Habré should be brought before an African court and that the African Union should decide about it. At its last meeting in January, the African Union set up a committee, which will report in July on what such a court should look like.
Mr President, Commissioner, I believe there are several possible ways of bringing Hissène Habré to court. The most realistic is his extradition to Belgium, since he could quickly be examined by a fair court in Europe. The International Criminal Court might also take on the case. An ad hoc African court, on the other hand, will require a tremendous amount of political will and is probably scarcely possible without an enormous amount of money, time and administrative effort.
It is now up to the African Union to make every effort to ensure that the case of Hissène Habré is finally brought to a conclusion before a court. If, on the other hand, extradition to Belgium is ruled out, then the African Union will have to put forward a precise plan as to how an African court can deal with the matter as quickly as possible.
I would be pleased if a precedent were set here and Hissène Habré were brought to court. The many victims demand it.
Ana Maria Gomes (PSE), author. – (PT) Mr President, we in Europe are dismayed that survivors of the genocide orchestrated by Slobodan Milosevic could not see him convicted in the Hague.
In Africa, the victims of governments that violate human rights and of war criminals have the right to justice and are seeking justice. Their names are: Hissène Habré, Charles Taylor, Mengistu Haile Mariam and Robert Mugabe.
A few days ago in the Committee on Human Rights, we heard a lawyer from Chad underline this in relation to the dictator Hissène Habré, who has lived in exile in Senegal for a number of years. The lawyer advocated his extradition to Belgium, where a court is seeking him at the request of the victims. She also explained that extradition is needed because in the context of the African Union, there are unfortunately no mechanisms yet in place, nor is there the political will, to try this criminal, who was responsible for the political assassinations of over 40 000 of his compatriots and the detention and torture of many more. She went on to say that the Senegalese authorities referring the matter to the African Union was intended not to facilitate justice and to preserve African dignity, but to block justice and to cause further offence to the victims seeking to bring Hissène Habré to justice.
Mr President, Commissioner, I was recently in Senegal, where I spoke to human rights activists, members of the Senegalese Parliament and journalists. All confirmed the same impression, unfortunately: The EU has responsibilities in Africa and this is why we have adopted this resolution today. Hopefully, as a result, Portuguese politicians will use their influence and seek an end to impunity for all of these criminals in Africa.
Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL), author. – (NL) Mr President, African states do not owe their origins to the African people themselves, but to European colonisation. Their boundaries were drawn by foreigners and sliced through population groups who wanted to stay together, while people were lumped together who had very little in common in terms of history, culture, language and religion. It is impossible for those people to see the authorities as something that is their own.
In practice, this translates into a serious barrier to democracy. In those situations, there is a great deal of scope for people who, by violent means, favour one population group while suppressing another. Only by horrific means can they keep their unstable states together. Under those circumstances, it is only violent profiteers who manage to hold onto state power for any length of time. Situations of this kind can be found in all parts of Africa, but particularly where Arabic-Islamic and non-Islamic population groups have been combined in one country. Everyone is now familiar with the tragedies, permanent civil wars and streams of refugees that have cursed Sudan.
We adopted a resolution on its neighbour Chad only yesterday. Hissène Habré was once the leader of that desert country, and was automatically accepted by the outside world, holding on to power in part of it until 1990, when he was forced to escape to Senegal. Even after his departure, there is no room for political opposition, the people are starving and terrorised by armed gangs, while neighbouring countries try to gain control over part of the territory. Charles Taylor fled from Liberia to Nigeria; Mengistu Haile Mariam fled from Ethiopia, and now lives in Zimbabwe, and for such as these, sentences imposed by a court of law might be appropriate. They might even deter future African politicians from developing into violent dictators.
The situation in Rwanda is not completely comparable. Some see the present dominance of the Tutsi minority as fair punishment for the Hutu majority’s attempt at driving out and massacring their age-old oppressors. The long-term continuation of the present situation – for indeed we must take into account the possibility of this situation continuing for the foreseeable future – continues to feed an age-long feeling of mutual hatred. That is why we should not lump all the countries together, but instead give due attention to the atrocities that have been committed in them.
Marios Matsakis (ALDE), author. – Mr President, the fight against impunity should be one of the cornerstones of the Union’s policy in the field of human rights. That principle applies only too well to Africa, in parts of which numerous horrific human rights abuses have occurred, sometimes on a massive scale. Unfortunately, however, the perpetrators of these crimes have rarely been brought to justice and the victims are very frequently denied any form of effective remedy.
It is imperative that infamous people like Charles Taylor, Colonel Mengistu and Chad’s devious exiled former President Hissène Habré face trial in an internationally recognised court of law in respect of the atrocities and crimes against humanity they have allegedly carried out.
It is truly shameful and distinctly disgraceful for the governments of countries like Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Senegal to continue to be an obstacle to the course of justice by providing a safe refuge to such alleged criminals. It is my view that if these governments ignore what this resolution calls for, then the EU, in conjunction with the international community, must consider taking more drastic, peaceful action to force a proper remedy.
Karin Scheele, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, today we are discussing impunity in Africa and it has already been said how important the institution of the International Criminal Court is. But we are also specifically discussing the case of the former dictator of Chad. Habré ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990, and his one-party system was marked by severe violations of human rights and large-scale campaigns of violence against his own people. The US and France backed Habré for a long time, because they saw his regime as a bulwark against Gaddafi. During Ronald Reagan’s period of office, Habré received massive military aid as well as paramilitary aid through the CIA.
That also has to be said. It is not simply that we should not be teaching other continents lessons; we must also be clear in our minds that for many years major Western countries gave their backing wherever bloody dictators were in power. The question now is how to end Habré’s impunity. I welcome the search for an African solution. If that fails, Habré should be handed over to the Belgian authorities to put an end to the impunity of a bloody dictator.
Urszula Krupa, on behalf of the NI Group. – (PL) Mr President, today’s debate on human rights violations relates to the impunity of various former heads of African states accused of dictatorship and of barbaric methods of rule.
The matter raised in Parliament’s resolution relates specifically to the former President of the Republic of Chad, Hissène Habré, who is responsible for 40 000 political murders and 200 000 cases of torture. However, the resolution also names other dictators from Libya and Ethiopia, and examples cited include the conflicts in Sierra Leone, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where three million people have died during the six-year conflict.
An analysis of the political situation in Africa leads one to ask questions about the causes of the conflicts between African ruling elites and the masses of their compatriots who are subjected to such inhuman treatment. It should be remembered that the composition and role of the African elites were largely determined by the colonial powers, as were any changes to these elites. As in the majority of colonised societies, in Africa too the elites were formed under the influence of European models and Communist interference, which was decisive in shaping the administrative and intellectual character of the elites who came to power. The colonial powers, focusing on the exploitation of manpower and the export of raw materials, deliberately restricted political activity together with the development of these countries’ economies. At the same time, the elites who were given access to education at European and American universities adopted a style of rule in which vast budgetary resources were allocated not only to the military, to swelling the ranks of the administration, to trips abroad and to delegations, but also to civil servants’ salaries, ostentatious lifestyles, luxury houses and cars, or in other words to models of life that were far removed from the conditions in which the majority of starving Africans lived. Economic dependence was aggravated by the fact that key industries were run by foreign capital, and that these were also environmentally harmful. The ongoing economic drain of Africa has been perpetuated by unequal economic exchange, and instead of development opportunities, the policy pursued has been one of systematically indebting the poor countries.
We support a resolution which calls for criminal rulers to be made accountable, but it is a matter of greater urgency to improve the overall situation of the African population in such a way as to secure sustainable development, which the aforementioned conditions make difficult to implement.
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. Mr President, we are very pleased that there has been a discussion on impunity. The Commission is committed to fighting impunity by all means at its disposal, be they political or financial.
At the international level, as you know, we have consistently expressed strong support for the International Criminal Court through both our common position and our action plan. In addition, the European Union, through its Member States, is the largest contributor to the ICC and its budget. The Court’s credibility and chances of working effectively are largely dependent on the international community’s general acceptance of it. That is why we are really working towards making the Court truly universal by encouraging as many countries as possible to ratify the Rome Statute. I am particularly happy that the European Union and the 77 ACP countries agreed to include in the revised Cotonou Agreement a commitment to take steps to ratify and implement the Statute. This is a good step forward.
In July 2004, the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor opened investigations into crimes allegedly committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Uganda after 2002. These notifications, followed by arrest warrants in Uganda, are clear indications of the contribution that the ICC can and will make to the fight against impunity on the African continent. In addition, in March 2005 the UN Security Council – after much lobbying from the EU and other players – adopted a resolution referring the situation in Darfur to the ICC.
It is unfortunate that it was not possible to resolve the case of Hissène Habré in Senegal, but I welcome the African Union’s decision of January 2006 to set up a Committee of Eminent African Jurists to consider the case further. The committee appears to have quite a strong mandate. Of particular note is its adherence to ‘the principles of total rejection of impunity’.
I hope that a solution that meets the requirements of justice is reached soon. In addition to the case of Hissène Habré, a pragmatic way forward must be found – as some of you have said – to bring to justice Charles Taylor, who is currently in exile in Nigeria.
In terms of funding, we are contributing to the international criminal tribunals of Sierra Leone and Rwanda. In addition, a large project is being prepared for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which will seek to underpin our work in the ICC.
Finally, states have a duty under international law to try or to extradite those charged with international crimes, such as crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. It is primarily, therefore, a matter for the Heads of State concerned to ensure that this happens in the cases of Hissène Habré, Charles Taylor and Mengistu Haile Mariam. The importance of the role of the International Criminal Court comes into play when states refuse to observe their duties in this regard. That is why it is so important that the European Union should continue to support the universal ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute.
President. The debate is closed.
The vote will take place immediately.
Written statement (Rule 142)
Filip Andrzej Kaczmarek (PPE-DE). – (PL) Impunity is the greatest enemy of justice. Nameless crimes, crimes that go uncondemned, criminals living with a sense of impunity, and often even in luxury, all lead to the trivialisation of death and human suffering. The peoples of Africa have suffered a great deal under their rulers. It is our duty to help them, and to help them not only in terms of material aid, but also in terms of aid associated with higher values, such as a sense of justice. Modernisation has meant that evil people can cause others greater harm. Modernisation should also mean quicker and more effective justice for those who blatantly abuse their power. Immunity and privileges were designed to protect people from abuse by the authorities, and not to protect those who abuse power.
Forgiveness can come from high moral authorities, but there is no real forgiveness without repentance. Unfortunately, those criminals who do not have a sense of individual responsibility, and do not recognise the right of others to condemn their actions, are rarely mature enough for feelings such as repentance. We must therefore support any actions that will force them to answer the questions: why did they kill, why did they rape, why did they torture? It is not a question of revenge, but of restoring a balance between what is evil and what is good. Without a fundamental balance like this, the future of humanity will be under persistent threat, and not only in Africa.