Thursday, 26 August 2021

Johannesburg: “Peace and justice must work side by side and prioritising one over the other jeopardises the chance of either.”

These were the words of former International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, Madame Fatou Bensouda, when she delivered the 19th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture on Wednesday.

Bensouda delivered her speech virtually from The Hague in the Netherlands, as COVID-19 considerations prevented the annual lecture from being presented in person.

In her lecture, titled ‘The Rule of Law, International Criminal Justice and Its Contribution to Sustainable Development’, Bensouda noted that Goal 16 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) highlights three key elements: peace, justice and strong institutions.

“I remind fellow human rights practitioners how important it is for communities to understand that the promise of peace comes with justice and accountability.

“I believe this package is a more sustainable recipe for actualising Madiba’s vision of transitional justice; whether through redress or transformation of political and social systems.

“It is important for governments – especially democratic governments – to understand that their primary duty is to safeguard the rights of citizens – whether economic, political or social… In principle, any government unable to safeguard these rights has failed to discharge its primary duty,” Bensouda said.

The online audience was also addressed by Mrs Graça Machel, Professor Njabulo Ndebele and Nelson Mandela Foundation CEO Sello Hatang.

After the Lecture Bensouda, engaged in a question and answer session with lawyer and activist Lwando Xaso.

Professor Ndebele, Chairperson of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees, provided a robust framing to the 19th Lecture, exploring amongst other things, the implications for the rule of law and for constitutionalism of the wave of public violence which rocked South Africa in July.