Amnesty International has launched a new fellowship program that seeks to improve access to the international justice field for early to mid-career professionals from the African region. The International Justice in Africa Fellowship has been established against the backdrop of Amnesty International and T.M.C Asser’s May 2021 report titled ‘The Rome Statute at 40’ which highlighted the critical gap for access to spaces of engagement for national stakeholders from the global south and the need to enhance diversity of representation in the field of international justice.
The inaugural fellows are Chuka Charles Arinze-Onyia (Nigeria) and Sarah Mutseo Ngachi (Kenya). They were selected from a pool of 368 applicants from across Africa.
During the nine-month fellowship, the two fellows are set to benefit from skills-transfer and the opportunity to deepen their technical expertise by engaging in research, legal analysis and policy discourse in international criminal law and justice.
This first of its kind fellowship is launching in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, and at a time when new armed conflicts have emerged while old ones remain unresolved. From Ethiopia to Ukraine, Israel/Palestine to Myanmar, Mali to Central Africa Republic and from Yemen to South Sudan, crimes under international law have been committed on a mass scale. Yet, the needed international response has rarely been provided. The need to bring perpetrators to justice through independent, impartial and fair trials for all crimes under international law remains urgent.
Since becoming a lawyer in 2017, Chuka has worked within the Nigerian criminal justice system. He initially worked as a prosecutor for the Anambra State Department of Public Prosecutions before joining a private law practice, where he provided representation to pretrial detainees. He has a keen interest in international justice and has engaged in research and international advocacy for victims of human rights violations in Central African Republic, Ethiopia and Nigeria.
“This fellowship presents an opportunity for me to develop and amplify my voice on the many issues of international justice plaguing the continent and beyond,” said Chuka, who is based in the organization’s West Africa Regional Office in Dakar, Senegal.
Sarah Mutseo Ngachi joins the fellowship with three years’ professional experience in the field of human rights and international justice. Her interests lie at the nexus between corporate accountability, environmental justice and international criminal law. Called to the Bar in Kenya, Sarah’s research has focused mainly on prosecution of transnational crimes in Africa. She has also been involved in public interest litigation on environmental law and human rights at Kenyan courts and the East Africa Court of Justice.
“I am excited to join the fellowship at a time when crucial developments and debates are taking place in the international justice field, including on the possibility of including ecocide as a crime under the Rome Statute, which may have a number of crucial human rights implications. I look forward to actively engaging with these developments and debates through the fellowship,” said Sarah who is based at the organizations’ East Africa Regional Office in Nairobi, Kenya.
“As the Rome Statute turns 20, it is evident that exclusion of stakeholders and professionals from certain regions, particularly the Global South, has served to reinforce structural inequalities and unequal power relations in the field of international justice. This fellowship will in the long term contribute, in a small way, towards enhancing diversity of representation in the field of international justice,” said Japhet Biegon, Amnesty International’s Africa Regional Advocacy Coordinator.