Proceeding with the former Ivorian president, Laurent Gbagbo’s trial could undermine the International Criminal Court’s legitimacy in Africa, write Tim Zwart and Alexander Knoops.
Two months to Kenya’s next elections in March 2013, foreign diplomats, alarmed that two International Criminal Court “indictees”, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, might become president and vice-president, have started talking down the pair’s chances. But voters are not listening as the pair’s popularity is on the rise.
The Senegalese judge, Justice El Hadji Malick Sow, served as an alternate judge for Trial Chamber II of the Special Court of Sierra Leone that tried the former Liberian president, Charles Taylor. For the five years that the trial lasted, Justice Sow sat on the bench with three other “main” judges who presided over the trial in rotation. As alternate judge, Justice Sow’s job was to step in and act as a “main” judge whenever any of the three main judges was unable to sit. He says during the five years, he “worked harder than anybody else because I took it very seriously, for me it was a very important trial because I was the only judge from the West African sub-region, and as such, I couldn’t come back home, face my people, and tell them lies about what I didn’t see or cannot justify.”
A 27-person delegation from the New York-based December 12th Movement, and the Barbados-based International Association Against Torture, travelled to The Hague to petition the ICC to widen its net beyond African indictees.
After the deluge of criticisms against the International Criminal Court’s apparent bias or selective prosecutions against Africans, it is now the turn of the Court to talk back. And who better to do it than Fatou Bensouda, the first African to be appointed as chief prosecutor of the Court, who took office in mid-June. She denies the Court has unfairly focused on Africa, and that “what offends [her] the most when [she] hear[s] criticisms about this so-called ‘Africa bias’ is how quick we are to focus on the words and propaganda of a few powerful, influential individuals, and to forget about the millions of anonymous people who suffer from their crimes”.
Our associate editor Mercy Eze interviewed Bensouda, a former Gambian Minister of Justice, and the lady was not for turning:
“No one,” she declared, “will divert me from the course of justice”. Here are excerpts.
The 10th anniversary of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 1 July 2012 presents a good opportunity to examine its track record vis-à-vis its largest constituency, Africa, writes Tiina Intelmann, Estonia’s ambassador-at-large for the ICC, who also serves as the president of the Assembly of States Parties to the ICC’s Rome Statute.
This is what Courtenay Griffiths QC, who defended the former Liberian president Charles Taylor before the Special Court for Sierra Leone, said at the ICC conference organised by IC Events in London on 18 May 2012.
The activities of the International Criminal Court (ICC) have had ramifications across Africa. Four officers of the court were arrested in Libya in late May; the African Union moved its meeting to Addis Ababa as Malawi could not guarantee Sudan’s President El-Bashir would not be arrested under an ICC warrant for alleged crimes against humanity; there is turmoil in Cote d’Ivoire at the prospect of former President Laurent Gbagbo going on trial at The Hague; and two of Kenya’s presidential aspirants, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, are among four prominent Kenyans the ICC ruled should face trial for alleged crimes against humanity over post-election violence in 2007 to 2008.
The focus on (some say “targeting of”) Africa by the ICC, creating the impression that Africa is the only place in the world where crimes against humanity are committed, has left a sour taste in many African and other mouths. No wonder, international law, again, came under the spotlight at the end of April with the conviction and sentencing of Liberia’s former president, Charles Taylor, by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, sitting in The Hague. (Charles Taylor has since launched his appeal against the sentence).
Over the past five years, there has been a remarkable catalogue of cases at the ICC, drawing in defendants from across Africa. Yet when the concept of an international criminal court was first mooted, few would have guessed that it would arouse such a storm of controversy so quickly.
To drill down on the issues surrounding the whole idea of international jurisprudence, IC Events, a subsidiary IC Publications, the mother company of New African and seven other magazines, held a high-level conference in London in mid-April under the banner: Restorative International Justice – The ICC of the Future. Lea Jabre and Jaye Moni provided this executive summary of the proceedings.