Professor Laurence Juma gives the Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award Lecture

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In 2014, Professor Laurence Juma was the joint award winner of the Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award. This is a prestigious award given annually to a member of the university who excels in his or her research. The bar is high: the requirement is that ‘[t]hey shall be of exceptional quality in relation to peers at their stage of career, and proven achievement with standing records of scholarship.’

Prof Juma’s lecture on 26 October 2015, entitled ‘Accountability for international crimes in Africa: In search of complementarity between domestic and international legal institutions’ was a testament to the exceptional nature of his research. In his lecture, Prof Juma managed to survey and analyse the contemporary events in South Africa relating to the enforcement of international criminal justice norms (through the al-Bashir judgment), while at the same time providing a sound basis for reflection and comparison with the enforcement of these norms in the country of his origin: Kenya. In his analysis, Prof Juma offered up his view that robust constitutions in Africa, together with domestic legal institutions underpinning these instruments, constitute a strong bulwark against political leaders’ attempt to weaken enforcement of international criminal justice.

Having surveyed the attempts in Kenya to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2010 and 2013 (pointing out the remarkable similarities to arguments regarding withdrawal in South Africa), Prof Juma comes to the conclusion that domestic institutions hold the key: these institutions are likely to make it difficult for political leaders to withdraw their countries completely from the Rome Statute. An interesting aspect of Prof Juma’s lecture was his consideration of the way in which the African Union has attempted to disengage from the ICC – particularly pointing out the AU’s contradictory approach in following certain legal channels to stop ICC processes, but at the same time disregarding these same channels. Further, Prof Juma picks up the attempts of the AU to disengage by way of advocating for non-cooperation, and by problematic attempts to set up regional bodies.

Prof Juma’s coverage of contemporary problems in Africa and beyond points to the way in which research at the Rhodes Law Faculty influences the local, national, regional and international sphere. As the Faculty’s Deputy Dean, a warden, and with several other responsibilities, Prof Juma’s scholarly influence goes further than just Grahamstown: this is certainly the case in March 2015 where he gave a keynote address to the 16th Meeting of the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, in Geneva. He also gave the acclaimed Cox Lecture at Case Western Reserve University School of Law on the tension between African states and the International Criminal Court. More recently, he has been appointed to prepare the background paper on the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies Consultative Conference, hosted by the Geneva Centre for Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) to be held in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) in November 2015.

The Law Faculty is proud of one of its own – and also acknowledges the support and backing of those around their researchers (as Prof Juma himself acknowledged). In this case, Prof Juma’s wife and his three children. In terms of his ability to positively influence international criminal justice norms … watch this space.

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