Quitting ICC is rather extreme

President Museveni’s statement to stop outright any cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC) is extreme and should be weighed carefully. Also his call to African Union (AU)ountries to withdraw en mass from the Rome Statute would sever the link between the ICC and AU.

But Mr Museveni’s proposition is not new. Only in October, the proposal was pushed by Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe, among others, but failed to win enough support at the AU summit in Addis-Ababa. It was opposed by Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast, and the Gambia, among others. This means there is no AU consensus on this issue and rightly so.

Just as Botswana’s Information minister Jeff Ramsey said then, Africa should stand by the principles of ICC. It was ICC’s principle to help end impunity and punish perpetrators of the most heinous crimes that endeared AU’s 34 of 54 members to sign up to ICC established by the Rome Statute of 1998.

So dissenting voices that say quitting the Rome Statue would promote impunity should be listened well.

First, AU previously failed to address some past conflicts and atrocities meted out. Second, Africa played a key role in the establishment of the ICC in 1998. Third, Africa has the largest regional grouping of member states of the Rome Statute with 34 of its 54 subscribing to ICC. This translates into three of every 10 members of ICC being an African State.

Moreover, most of the cases at ICC were initiated on the request of African governments or are supported by African leaders. For instance, Uganda was one of the first AU countries to refer a case to ICC in 2003, only a year after ICC was established in 2002.
Therefore, given these background, it would be wrong for AU states to say ICC is targeting Africa, rather than fighting impunity and serving justice to African victims. This is not to dismiss African leaders’ concerns that ICC targets only Africa and Africans. As States Parties, Africa should stick to ICC’s cardinal principle of accountability, rule of law and non-tolerance of impunity.

Just as ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said, ICC steps in only as a last resort court when national judiciaries have proven incapable or unwilling to prosecute alleged perpetrators of mass crimes. Even in the Kenya case, ICC stepped in only after Kenya missed a deadline to set up a domestic tribunal for crimes committed in the 2007-2008 post election violence.

Africa’s call to ICC not to prosecute sitting heads of state should be considered not call to outright withdrawal. But Africa should redress so-called unfair, unjust and unacceptable treatment of their peers by ICC.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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