The International Criminal Court (ICC) has said that cooperation from state parties especially in effecting arrest warrants of suspects is still a challenge in its endeavour to serve justice.
This was stated by Mr Dahirou Sant – Anna, the International Cooperation Adviser of the ICC during a press engagement at Hotel Africana on Tuesday. Mr Dahirou is in Uganda to take part in a series of activities and discussions as the ICC commemorates 20 years since the Rome Statute was adopted.
He told journalists that state participation in the Hague based ICC is essential in supporting the enforcement of the works of the Court since it is the same state parties that established the Rome Statute, but in some situations, the States have jeopardized the process of justice.
He cited the case where ICC issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir, but countries like Uganda, South Africa and Jordan which are parties to the Rome Statute have refused to comply.
The court issued arrest warrants for Bashir in 2009 and 2010 over his alleged role in war crimes including genocide in Sudan’s Darfur province. Jordan, as a member of the ICC, is obliged to carry out its arrest warrants.
Sudan is not a member of the Hague-based permanent international war crimes court, and the ICC therefore does not have automatic jurisdiction to investigate alleged war crimes there.
“Becoming a state party is a sovereign decision. States have the obligation to cooperate and abide by the rules. If there is an arrest warrant by the ICC, they should enforce it,” Dahirou told the press.
“It is important for States who have ratified the Rome Statute to ensure that it is respected instead of undermining it.”
In explaining what happens once these states have abused their obligation to effect arrest warrants, he said that the decision has to be taken by the UN Security Council.
“The Registrar of the ICC sends a correspondence to remind the States of their obligations. But there is no authority beyond the State to impose on them what to do or how to do it,” he said.
“It is for the UN Security Council to give a way forward. In the case of Bashir, we haven’t received feedback from the Security Council”.
In Africa, 15 suspects have been arraigned before the ICC and 4 of them (Germain Katanga, Thomas Lubanga,
Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi and Jean Pierre Bemba) have been convicted.
He also appealed to States to be more cooperative by prosecuting smaller cases that are not handled by the ICC since it can only prosecute individuals who have the highest responsibility in crimes. This will close gap of impunity, he said.
“The day states will start empowering their judicial systems to investigate and prosecute all those who allegedly committed crimes of international nature, you will see ICC less often.
On the long standing issue of ‘selective justice’ of the ICC on which basis some of the countries in Africa have sought to withdraw their membership, Dahirou said the sentiment is misguided. He explained that by representation, Africa has the biggest membership in the State parties forming 34 countries which represent the continent on the Assembly of parties.
“Even then, many of these countries including Uganda, DRC, Mali, Gabon, CAR have referred cases to the ICC. So, when we talk about selective justice, we should take this into account,” he said.
He refuted the narrative that ICC only investigates African cases, saying; “We have requested judges to allow for the investigation of Ukraine, Georgia as well as CIA, US armed forces, Afghan forces and the Taliban over their role in the war in Afghanistan”.
While some have accused the Court of being more lenient to larger powers who contribute more towards its financial resources, Maria Mabirity Kamara, the ICC Outreach Officer said that the financial resources of state parties do not in anyway influence the processes of ICC.
“As a matter of facts, the greatest financial contributor is Japan, but it doesn’t matter how much or how less you give. It doesn’t influence the judicial proceedings or the outcome,” Kamara said.
Regarding the issue of killings in Kasese which were brought to the attention of the ICC, Dahirou says the assessment to establish material jurisdiction, suspects, threshold, ongoing investigations, gravity of crimes, interest of victims is still ongoing.
“We received information about Kasese. But according to Article 15 of the Statute, analysis must be made to ensure all procedures are met. Also, the process may take months or years based on priority,” he said.
The ICC was formed in 2002, two years after the establishment of the Rome statute to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
Commemorative activities to mark 20 years of the Rome Statute will include discussions with the legal and civil society and victims’ communities in northern Uganda among others.
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