The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda has asserted that the ICC wouldn’t have been set up without the support of some countries in Africa.
Mrs Bensouda said this at the GIMPA Law Conference 2016, under the theme: The International Criminal Court and Africa: a Discussion on Legitimacy, Impunity, Selectivity, Fairness and Accountability in Accra, Ghana.
The Prosecutor who delivered the key note address said that the issues of legitimacy, impunity, selectivity, fairness and accountability had generated much debate among African Scholars, Legal Practitioners, students and politicians.
She stated that these ruminations were important as they demonstrated the Continent’s commitment and interest in such important matters and it was only through an objective line of inquiry and questioning that ideas could be tested and opinions insightfully formed, adding that Africa’s debate about international criminal justice and the International Criminal Court should be no different.
‘While a critical interrogation of international criminal justice in Africa is indeed warranted and welcome, such discourse must be informed and objectively taken, devoid of political posturing’, Mrs Bensouda suggested.
According to the Prosecutor, it surely could not be an acceptable fact of modern day life in Africa or elsewhere that women should be mercilessly raped, children abducted, drugged and used as killing machines or as sex slaves; neither should we continue to tolerate large scale killings and displacement of innocent African civilians.
She added that it could not be accepted that those who sought to gain or to retain power at any cost could do so by committing mass atrocities against civilians and not be held individually accountable for such crimes.
The Prosecutor warned that failure to hold to account anyone responsible for these crimes (irrespective of their status) would constitute a denial of the victims\’ right to justice, enunciating that the era where mass violence could be unleashed on the people and explained away as simply politics by other means was over.
Mrs Bensouda further indicated that currently, 80% of United Nations Peacekeeping missions were in Africa. In each of these conflicts, untold suffering had been inflicted on innocent civilians, the Prosecutor added.
She also recounted that the legitimacy of the International Criminal Court as a fair, independent and impartial instrument of justice to address these crimes and to bring an end to impunity by holding accountable those who commit such crimes responsible, derived from the Rome Statute and the mandate given to this institution by the 124 Member States (including 34 African States) that had signed on to this treaty, adding that the era of individual criminal responsibility for mass atrocities and the end of impunity was heralded seventeen years ago in the City of Rome when the international community adopted the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court.
‘Additionally, the consistent and effective prosecution of those responsible for atrocious crimes, both at the national and international level, will serve as a warning to any would-be perpetrators that they would be held to account if they committed these crimes. In this regard, holding perpetrators accountable could have an important deterrent impact’, the Prosecutor said.
‘While sceptics and naysayers have been at pains to question the legitimacy of the ICC and to portray a dooms day scenario of an institution that does not enjoy the support of the African Continent, facts point to the contrary. It is now well accepted that without Africa’s support in the period leading up to and during the Rome Conference, the ICC would not have been borne’, the Prosecutor asserted.
She reiterated that not only had the African continent and individual African States been instrumental in the creation and functioning of the ICC, African States continued to provide the critical support and cooperation for ICC operations including protection of victims and witnesses.
Mrs Bensouda acknowledged that indeed, without such support, ICC would not have recorded important successes such as the arrest and surrender of Thomas Lubanga, Bosco Ntaganda, Dominique Ongwen, al-Mahdi, to mention a few, neither would her Office have secured the necessary evidence to advance with its cases.
‘In the execution of its legal mandate, the ICC has been guided by nothing but the law and the evidence. My Office has and will continue to apply the Rome Statute provisions without fear or favour, and the Court’s decisions have been and will continue to be independent, impartial and fair’, the Prosecutor assured.
The GIMPA Law Conference 2016 which drew speakers and participants from some African countries and other parts of the world was in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s Department, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Accra and the Leitner Centre for International Law and Justice, Fordham.