Former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has said that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is an institution that has and rightfully deserves the support of Africa because it ‘‘remains the continent’s most credible court of last resort for the most serious crimes.’‘
In an article written for the UK-based ‘The Guardian,’ Annan, who is a strong advocate for the court, said despite its imperfections, the ICC had the support of the people of Africa, particularly the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
‘‘Most of the continent’s democratic governments stand by the ICC. I stand by the ICC, because the most heinous crimes must not go unpunished,’‘ he said.
The ICC does not supplant national jurisdictions, it only intervenes in cases where the country concerned is either unable or unwilling to try its own citizens. Africans deserve justice as much as anyone else, even if their governments cannot always provide it.
His comments are in the wake of withdrawal moves by three African countries in the recent past. Burundi, the Gambia and South Africa are all in the process of withdrawing from the Hague-based court.
The ICC was established under the Rome Statute of 1998, it opened in July 2002 and has 124 member states. It is the first legal body with permanent international jurisdiction to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Reasons the ‘African three’ cited for decision to quit
Burundian lawmaker said the ICC was “a political tool used by powers to remove whoever they want from power on the African continent.” His position is echoed by the Gambia’s decision to quit the body, the government accuses the court of targeting African leaders.
On the part of South Africa, they said the court’s summons were impeding their efforts at hosting peace talks. “For a long time we have witnessed the unevenness of international justice and the lack of universality of application in the manner in which countries are treated,” Mr Siphosezwe Masango chairman of a parliamentary committee said.
The ICC had in April served notice that it would investigate outbreaks of violence in Burundi, which has been mired in a political crisis for more than a year.
Annan rejects the reasons to quit
Annan said as the continental bloc with the largest representation in the ICC – 34 states party out of 124, Africa has benefitted and continues to benefit from justice meted out by the court. Among others points to support his claim;
Out of nine investigations on the African continent, eight were requested by African states
Six African states referred their own situation to the ICC
African states voted in support of the UN security council referrals on Darfur and Libya.
Kenya was the only case in Africa opened independently by the court
But the ICC enjoyed the enthusiastic support of a majority of Kenyans. ‘‘They wanted justice for the 1,300 people killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in election-related violence.
‘‘The ICC got involved in these African cases because national authorities did not conduct investigations into the massive crimes that had occurred.
‘‘The ICC does not supplant national jurisdictions, it only intervenes in cases where the country concerned is either unable or unwilling to try its own citizens. Africans deserve justice as much as anyone else, even if their governments cannot always provide it,’‘ he added.
He also noted that contrary to claims it was targeting Africa, the ICC had opened investigations in Georgia and was concluding preliminary probes in Afghanistan, Colombia, Ukraine, Iraq and Palestine.
He however bemoaned some low sides of the court, among others the fact that only two (France and the united Kingdom) out of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, were signatories to the court.
He added that the ‘‘shortcomings must be addressed, but they are reasons to support the ICC’s efforts to rectify them, not to quit the court, one of the most significant achievements of international society since the end of the cold war.
‘‘Africa wants this court. Africa needs this court. Africa should continue to support this court. This is why I call on Africa’s democratic governments to take a principled stand this week at the Assembly of States Parties meeting in The Hague to shore up the ICC, a historic milestone on humanity’s journey towards international justice,’‘ he concluded.