African Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law

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The African Yearbook on International Humanitarian Law (AYIHL) is an annual legal journal which aims to promote interest and research in International Humanitarian Law and Policy. The AYIHL provides an attractive and positive forum for publications on all aspects of International Humanitarian Law of relevance to Africa and African academics. Through its encouragement of interest and research in the area, the publication contributes to the prevention of violations of international humanitarian law.

Latest documents

  • Problems under international humanitarian law with designating the Allied Democratic Forces and Ansar al-Sunna foreign terrorist organisations

    Under President Biden, the US has shifted its approach to ISIS to address fears about the group's expansion globally. The spread of ISIS in Africa has become an area of notable concern as an increasing number of armed groups across the continent have announced affiliations with ISIS. In response to this perceived threat, the Biden Administration announced the designation of two armed groups with ties to ISIS operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mozambique as foreign terrorist organisations (FTOs) in March 2021. There are, however, reasons to question the applicability of the designations in these two cases and consider the broader context and consequences. This article argues that the designations have been inappropriately assigned to these two groups in the DRC and Mozambique based on inaccurate factual assessments and explores the implications of this problematic approach under international humanitarian law.

  • An examination of the Gukurahundi genocide in Zimbabwe

    This article examines the Gukurahundi atrocities committed in Matabeleland in the 1980s to determine whether they constitute the international crime of genocide. This article analyses the legal requirements – conventions, jurisprudence and scholarly writings regarding genocide – and assesses the Gukurahundi atrocities against these requirements. The first section is the introduction, which highlights some known genocides in history and provides an outline of the article. The second section comprises an overview of the crime of genocide and its prosecution before the ad hoc tribunals, while the third section unpacks the notion of the four protected membership groups. The fourth and fifth sections evaluates the physical and mental elements of the crime of genocide with the aid of the jurisprudence of the ad hoc tribunals as well as the International Criminal Court. The sixth, seventh and eighth sections apply the legal requirements and jurisprudence to the Gukurahundi atrocities. The ninth section provides some concluding observations, arguing that the Fifth Brigade of the Zimbabwe National Army committed genocide from 1983 to 1987 as envisaged under international law. In each section, the Gukurahundi atrocities are evaluated against legal requirements: conventions, jurisprudence and the work of leading scholars.

  • The silence of Africa in the international humanitarian law debate

    International humanitarian law (IHL), as a component of international law, specifically seeks to limit the effects of warfare. The law of wars aims to limit suffering by regulating how war is fought. Despite the universal nature of most rules of IHL, Africa has been largely left behind, especially in the development of these laws and also in understanding and applying such laws on the continent. Notably, Africa has had its fair share of armed conflicts over the years, the effects of which have been devastating. However, there has been a disconnect between the development and the application of the rules of IHL in Africa. The history of Africa has led to the continent being disconnected from the development of IHL over the years. This article, therefore, aims to illustrate the gaps that exist in regard to Africa in the development of IHL as well as the exclusion of Africa's concerns from the global IHL debate. The article considers why there is regional disengagement when it comes to IHL debates on the continent. This is done by first examining the reality of wars in Africa, which are similar to those that have occurred in other parts of the world. The article then considers the development of IHL as a body of international law that regulates armed conflicts and the gaps that exist in its application to and development in Africa. Finally, this article reflects on some of the ways of ensuring that Africa does not remain passive when engaging in the global IHL debate.

  • The use of universal jurisdiction to ensure accountability for international crimes committed in Liberia in the periods 1989 to 1997 and 1999 to 2003

    This article investigates the potential for using the principle of universal jurisdiction to prescribe and then prosecute international crimes committed in Liberia during the two civil conflict periods: 1989 to 1997 and 1999 to 2003. More particularly, the article unpacks the concept of universal jurisdiction and explores the benefits that it offers in ending impunity for heinous international crimes. The article explores some of the controversies that have prevented the effective use of the principle of universal jurisdiction and highlights why it remains relevant, given the current response by the African Union to international prosecutions. The article highlights the reason why cases such as Kosiah and Massaquoi are especially significant in ending impunity in the case of Liberia, and how the success or failure of such cases can have a ripple effect, creating the necessary pressure for the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Court for Liberia on Liberian soil.

  • International humanitarian law in the African Commission’s General Comment No 3 on the Right to Life: A critical and comparative analysis

    The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, which is the treaty body established to monitor the States Parties' compliance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, adopted General Comment No 3 on the Right to Life in 2015. The African Commission's General Comment No 3 provides authoritative normative guidance for interpreting and implementing the right to life under Article 4 of the African Charter in armed conflict situations. Specifically, it outlines the African Commission's perspective on the right to life by elaborating on its scope and content, and also by clarifying the protections for individuals and the concomitant obligations of states. This article systematically discusses how and to what extent international humanitarian law (IHL) norms are integrated into the African Commission's General Comment No 3, and what the likely effects of such integration are. Using a critical and comparative approach, this article analyses General Comment No 3's interpretive approach to arbitrary deprivation of life in armed conflict; the constraints on lethal force during the conduct of hostilities; and states' extraterritorial legal obligations. The article demonstrates that, although it is a creditable advance in elaborating the right to life during armed conflict and other situations of violence, General Comment No 3 leaves key aspects of the IHL–human rights law interface either laconically addressed or ineffectually articulated. Those aspects will have to be clarified in the African Commission's future jurisprudence.

  • A critique of the Germany–Namibia Accord on colonial genocide

    Reparation is meant for effect: to make amends. The offer of EUR 1,100 million by the Federal Republic of Germany to the Republic of Namibia, in an agreement of June 2021, for the genocide committed during the colonial-era occupation encourages debate about the categorisation and effect of the payment in the fields of human rights and international criminal justice. The genocide was characterised by the loss of the lives of thousands of people among the Nama and Herero of Namibia between 1904 and 1908. In a pioneering analysis, this article reiterates the principles of reparation in international criminal jurisprudence as a yardstick for this significant gesture of remorse. Reparations must meet both procedural and substantive requirements: they must be proportional, appropriate, prompt and adequate, and they must culminate from a process that ensures the meaningful participation of victims and judicious regard for all relevant factors and circumstances. Reparations for the sake of it, without the remedial effect, make a mockery of justice. An agreement for development aid, however generous, cannot meet the standards of reparation for gross human rights violations. It does not oust the jurisdiction of a competent court on the matter and the pre-emptive clause intended to make the financial component in the Germany–Namibia Accord conclusive is unenforceable. This significant discourse must be guided by clearly set standards to avoid replicating the power dynamics which characterised the commission of the crimes that are intended to be addressed. Furthermore, the distinct treatment of victims on the basis of race and colonial history is repugnant and not defensible. A formidable institutional framework is needed for reparations for the trans-Atlantic trade and trafficking in enslaved Africans and colonial crimes, comprising a United Nations independent mechanism and a specialised committee of the African Union, supported by national committees of the respective countries.

  • Uganda’s decision ‘In the Matter of an Arrest Warrant and the Surrender to the International Criminal Court (ICC) of Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir’: Explanation, issues and consequences

    On 19 December 2019, High Court Justice Peter Adonyo issued a warrant of arrest for former Sudan President Omar al-Bashir should he ever set foot in Uganda or in a territory controlled by Uganda. He also held that by failing to arrest and surrender al-Bashir on two occasions in 2016 and 2017, in fulfilment of the warrants of arrest issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2009 and 2010, Uganda had breached its own International Criminal Court Act (2010), the Rome Statute (1998) and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1593 (2005). This contribution discusses the judgment by considering the context of Uganda's failure to meet its legal obligations with regard to the ICC's arrest warrants against al-Bashir. It then discusses the future of Uganda's arrest warrant against al-Bashir, and the court's clarification of the superiority of United Nations (UN) decisions over those of the African Union (AU).

  • Rights enforcement in the African Human Rights Court: Restrictiveness, progressivity and resistance

    Africa is characterised by, inter alia, oppressive political systems, a culture of impunity of those who govern, and the use of state sovereignty mantra in the face of gross and systematic rights violations. Yet, African states have, through the establishment of the African Human Rights Court, created an avenue for judicial scrutiny of their laws and executive action that affect human rights. While the Court holds great promise in relation to fighting impunity and the provision of effective remedies for rights violations, ensuring respect for human rights, and fostering Africa's quest for good governance, development, and regional integration, it operates amidst state resistance and other complexities, which threaten its effectiveness and existence. This article considers whether, against this background, the Court has shown restrictiveness or progressivity in its enforcement of rights.

  • External and internal common legal representation of victims at the International Criminal Court: Beyond the ‘Kenyan trial approach’

    The International Criminal Court (ICC) is primarily mandated to punish persons bearing the greatest responsibility for the worst crimes known to mankind. Additionally, its victim reparations are contingent on conviction; because of this, the Rome Statute's retributive goal is compounded with the inquisitorial function of seeking the truth by realising the victim's entitlement to participate at appropriate stages throughout the proceedings. However, the suspect's due process rights must remain protected. While the Court balances these procedural functions, victims' representatives determine which victims are members of the appropriate constituency. This paper's theoretical framework shows how victims are vulnerable to their representative's claims. Therefore, the question arises as to whether external or internal legal representation will be more effective for victims. This determines how victims' voices may best be elicited. Some victimologists contend that the exclusion of an external Common Legal Representative (CLR) in the search of mass atrocity solutions promotes merely symbolic, rather than meaningful, victim participation in ICC proceedings. The Court insists on external CLRs because of their local knowledge. Others emphasise the proximity of the Office of the Public Counsel for Victims (OPCV) to judges as providing access to justice at The Hague. Crucially, by requiring the OPCV to interface between the external CLR and the Chamber in day-to-day proceedings, the 'Kenyan trial approach' has made victims' participation more meaningful. Yet, following the Ruto and Sang case, the ICC faces challenges when confronted with diverse modalities of implementing reparations for multiple victims. In the Palestine situation, claims seeking to promote victims' interests required victim empowerment, including strengthening appropriate victim constituencies through outreach to enable them to articulate disagreements with their representatives. In the Ongwe case, a broad interpretation gave victims' voices enhanced agency over the defence. Recently, in Ntaganda's case, the Court directed the Registry to liaise not only with the CLRs but also with the Trust Fund for Victims for appropriate outreach and communication with victims.

  • Customary international humanitarian law: An overview of Kenya’s state practice in the post-2010 Constitution era

    With the exception of the shifta wars in the northern part of the country, Kenya has, for the greater part of its post-colonial history, enjoyed relative conditions of peace. This, in turn, has affected the volume of and quality of knowledge on Kenya's state practice on international humanitarian law (IHL). The Customary IHL study of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 2005 reviewed state practice in the country at the time, based on materials such as military manuals, national laws and case law. However, since 2005, two significant events have had a direct bearing on the country's IHL state practice. The first is the ushering in of a new constitutional order through the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, and the second is the Kenyan military troops' incursion into Somalia against the Somali terrorist group, Al-Shabaab. This paper looks at the significant ways in which these two events have led to key additions to Kenya's state practice, under four main headings: military manuals, national laws, court cases and other sources.

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