Global Policy Forum

EU: Extra-national Justice for Africa?

EU’s most recent diplomatic arm, European External Action Service (EEAS), has started off progressively to undertake various international challenges. Nicholas Westcott, Managing Director responsible for Africa, states that there is a lack of global commitment to international justice and there is a need to increase the coherence between EU member states in order to protect EU interests. So far, EEAS has focused on establishing a partnership with African countries. On the question of why Latin American countries are not given attention, Nicholas Westcott stresses that those in power are often those who suffered during the authoritarian regimes and hence are better suited to judge rights issues.

By Geraldine Coughlan

Radio Netherlands Worldwide

November 23, 2011

There’s not enough global commitment to international justice. That’s why Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir - indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide in Darfur - can afford to ignore the international arrest warrant against him.

That’s the view of Nicholas Westcott, Managing Director responsible for Africa at The European External Action Service – a guest speaker at the recent Conference on Experiences and Reflections from Africa and the EU 50 Years after Dag Hammerskjold at the Peace Palace in The Hague. Created under the Lisbon Treaty, the EEAS began work this year as the EU’s new diplomatic arm and is rolling up its sleeves as it begins tackling a host of international challenges, starting with a partnership approach towards Africa. Nicholas Westcott spoke to Geraldine Coughlan.

As a young organisation, the EEAS is a work in progress. But what is impressive is the speed with which it has been tackling the range of global issues that have been thrown on its desk. It is in essence creating a new diplomatic service from a number of constituent parts but altogether it’s a new organisation. It’s obviously created under the Lisbon Treaty but is something that is both necessary and advantageous for all the member states of the European Union.


Because we need to act in unison more frequently given the range of challenges across the world - wherever we can act together. This is more a question of speaking not necessarily with a single voice but with a single message. Obviously all our member states retain diplomatic services too – our aim is to work with them in partnership, increasing the coherence between us and therefore increasing our impact and our ability to protect Europe’s interests.

Speaking of Europe’s interests, the EEAS is the youngest diplomatic service after South Sudan – in taking your first steps, how will you go about embracing the rule of law? 

Across Africa there is a whole range of challenges. We’ve just had talks on the situations both in Cote d’Ivoire and Sudan. Our fervent hope is that we can see Sudan and South Sudan evolving in the direction of two peaceful and prosperous states living in harmony together. Sudan deserves credit for allowing the peace process that enabled the creation of South Sudan. And that brought to an end 20 to 25 years of direct conflict. But it has not resolved all the problems at a stroke. They continue to exist both in South Sudan and in what is now just Sudan - the northern part. President Bashir remains under indictment by the ICC. As members of the ICC we believe that indictment needs to be implemented.

So, where’s the way out?

The way out exists. But it requires unequivocal commitment to establishing peace and accountability to the people both in Darfur and now in areas of Blue Nile and South Kordofan where conflict has again erupted within Sudan. That unequivocal commitment to peace would enable the international community to see that there are other aspects that need to be taken into account. But at the moment that commitment does not appear to be there. And therefore the ICC’s indictment stands.

Why are you focusing so much on Africa and not other regions like Latin America?

Latin America has its own processes for bringing its own historical problems to justice. And as the ICC’s Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo said, the people in power in many Latin American countries now are those who suffered and were persecuted under previous military or authoritarian regimes. And they are better placed to judge than us - how to deal with this historic legacy.


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