The Mobilisation of South African Civil Society in the Al Bashir matter

Professor Mia Swart

5 June 2017, 1700-1830

K-1.56, King’s Building, King’s College London

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Since the start of the controversial Al-Bashir saga in South Africa, South African civil society mobilisation played a vital role in alerting the South African government to its duties as a state party to the Rome Statute. Swart’s paper will situate the civil society activism around the Al Bashir matter in the broader context of civil society activity in South Africa as well as the broader context of civil society activity before the ICC, specifically in Kenya and the Central African Republic. The history of the Al Bashir case, the history of civil society involvement in the case and the strategies employed by NGO’s will then be discussed. The speaker will look at ways in which NGO’s are continuing to play a role in the Al Bashir matter. The possible impact of the South African NGO activism on other jurisdictions (particularly in Africa) where visiting senior state officials accused of international crimes were similarly not arrested will also briefly be considered.

Mia Swart is professor of International Law at the University of Johannesburg where she teaches the LLM course in international law. She focuses her research on the fields of transitional justice, international criminal law, and comparative constitutional law. The main focus of her research has been on judicial law-making in international law, reparations for human rights violations as well as international courts, the international judiciary and the regional promotion of the rule of law. She consulted for the United Nations Development Programme in Palestine in 2014 and 2015 and for Amnesty International in 2015 and 2015. Mia’s work has been cited by the International Criminal Court. She regularly contributes to local and international media.

The event will be followed by a drinks reception in the Staff Common Room.

This event is co-hosted with the Transnational Law Institute and the War Crimes Research Group.

Context matters! TJ ‘mosaics’ not blueprints

The ICTJ have published a new volume discussing the importance of context in Transitional Justice implementation: Justice Mosaics: How Context Shapes Transitional Justice in Fractured Societies.


The book is wide-ranging and is the culmination of a multi-year project, including a series of workshops in New York in 2014.  The book stresses the importance of understanding context and argues that, rather than conceiving of TJ as a set of tools, it should be understood as a series of mosaics, or processes arranged according to the circumstances in play.  You can explore the book and associated resources here.
In my chapter on ‘Opportunities and Challenges’ I take what I think is a fairly pragmatic (and moderately pessimistic) approach, that ‘not only important to consider opportunities and challenges in context; it is also important to recognize that both
transitional justice and peace-building are processes of highly contingent and
imperfect transition. Just as there is no one-size-fits-all solution, there is also
no perfect solution to the problem of how to deal with a legacy of abuses, how-
ever context specific.
Dealing with past abuses in a delicate post-conflict setting can be at best complicated and at worst calamitous. The task is to ensure that we err on the side of the former, not the latter. Above all, we need to be realistic about what transitional justice can achieve, and honest about what it cannot.’