In the Spotlight

IAWJ is proud to congratulate long time member, Justice Solomy Balungi Bossa.

On 06 December 2017, long time IAWJ member, Justice Solomy Balungi Bossa, was elected as a judge to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Justice Bossa will serve a nine-year term on the international court. While sitting as a judge on Uganda’s High Court, Justice Bossa participated in IAWJ’s two-week training program, Jurisprudence of Equality, where she applied international conventions to cases alleging crimes of discrimination and violence against women in Entebbe, Uganda in 1998.

Justice Bossa  previously served on the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, where she tried Hutu tribal members who were accused of grave human rights violations. When ICTR officially closed in 2001, Justice Bossa accepted a five-year appointment to the United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals. During this time, Justice Bossa was also appointed to the East African Court of Justice, making her the first woman to receive such an appointment.

Justice Bossa has continued to try important matters of human rights during the past three years that she has spent on the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights. The IAWJ is honored to have Justice Bossa as a part of its membership and would like to congratulate her on this achievement.

Out of the six available positions, five were filled by female nominees. IAWJ is glad to see a continued representation of women judges on the ICC bench. Congratulations to all of the elected judges.


IAWJ member and former Vice President Marianne de Rooij (The Netherlands) represented us as a member of the ILAC justice sector mission to the Central African Republic (CAR). De Rooij shares her findings here.

CAR has a long and violent history of authoritarian regimes, armed mutinies and serial rebellions, along with impunity for gross human rights violations and atrocity crimes.

Thousands have been killed in the armed conflict that began in 2013 between the Seleka (predominantly Muslims) and Anti-Balaka (predominantly Christians and Animists), and hundreds of thousands were forced to leave their homes.  The UN peace keeping mission MINUSCA arrived in 2014. Despite succesful democratic elections in early 2016, outbursts of violence continue to be a daily reality in CAR. Remote areas remain out of control of the government.  During the assessment, a so called “ville morte” (a general strike) took place in Bangui; the strike and accompanying demonstrations resulted in the several violent deaths of the participants.

CAR authorities created the Special Criminal Court (SCC) in 2014. Although not yet active, the Special Court will work within CAR’s national justice system, and is tasked to prosecute violations of human rights and international humaniatrian law.  The SCC is seeking foreign and national judges to preside on the SCC, which will cooperate with the ICC.

ILAC’s assessment team examined the needs of the national justice sector, the barriers present to fighting against impunity, and ways in which support might be provided in overcoming these challenges.  The full resulting Assessment Report will be published in March 2017 on ILAC’s website

The team found a severely damaged judicial infrastructure.  There are not enough police officers, judges, procescutors, lawyers, and court personnel, and there is a lack of basic equipment. The justice system is chronically underfunded.  People working in the justice sector are unsafe.  Despite  terrible working conditions, the people working in the judiciary are dedicated to the rule of law.

There are very few women working  in the justice sector in the CAR. The female judge of the court of first instance in Bangui told the team that she is well respected in her work by the public and her colleagues. She hopes there will be more women working in the judiciary soon, but this a very slow process. The team visited a women’s prison and noted that the guards are mainly men.

There is no national women judges association, but a women’s jurists association,  “L’association des femmes juristes”, is very active in CAR. Together with many NGO’s  and ABA/ROLI, the women jurists – among them judges – organize legal aid for women and so-called “centres d écoute” ( “listening centers”), where women can tell their stories and receive medical and psychological help.  There is a great need for these services due to the high incidents of rape, sexual assault and violence against women and children.  In most cases, the perpetrators are not prosecuted. In the fragile security situation women fear to come forward, and it is difficult for the justice system to arrest suspects, conduct investigations or protect witnessess.

The ILAC team proposed a number of recommandations for building the CAR national justice system, within several directions: regional cooperation, protection of witnesses, and training and education in international law.  In addition, alongside the SCC, the national system –its lawyers and judges–must be strengthened and integrated into the assistance. With de Rooij’s participation, the Assessment team identified two priorities:  training and education on gender equality, and a focus on prosecuting gender based violence. Both priorities are an important part of the future development of the justice system in CAR.