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130 groups criticise Africa’s ICC exit bid

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is spearheading the trial against Deputy President William Ruto. Photo/ FILE

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is spearheading the trial against Deputy President William Ruto. Photo/ FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 7 – One hundred and thirty groups from across Africa on Monday expressed concern over the fate of ongoing Kenyan cases at the International Criminal Court (ICC) saying the trials should continue in The Hague.

They say that Kenya’s decision to repeal the country’s International Crimes Act also would mean that the country would lose an important tool for the domestic prosecution of international crimes.

“Kenya is the only situation where the ICC Office of the Prosecutor acted on its own initiative, but only with the approval of the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber after Kenya failed to take action to ensure justice domestically.”

“This had been recommended by a national commission of inquiry set up as part of an African Union (AU) mediated agreement to end the violence,” they explained.

In a letter to African Foreign Ministers, the groups from the 34 member states explained, “Kenya has put governments in an awkward position by pressing to avoid the ICC’s cases after failing to avail itself of the legal procedures for the court to authorize such a move based on credible domestic investigation and prosecution.”

Members added that African states played an active role in the creation of the court and as such they ought to continue supporting the court.

“Plans to withdraw from the court will undermine the importance of justice in Africa and let impunity reign within the countries.”

The letter noted that the Kenyan cases have raised questions on the credibility of the court amongst different African states.

“The relationship between the ICC and some African governments has faced renewed challenges as the Kenya cases have progressed.”

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“A key criticism raised by some African leaders is that the court is targeting Africa. While the ICC’s cases are entirely from Africa, the majority came before the court as a result of requests by the states where the crimes were committed.”

“Any withdrawal from the ICC would send the wrong signal about Africa’s commitment to protect and promote human rights and to reject impunity, as reflected in article 4 of the AU’s Constitutive Act,” the organisations said.

“However, considerations of withdrawal risk grave consequences for civilians in Africa, who tend to bear the brunt of serious crimes committed in violation of international law.”

They urged the member states to reconsider their plan to pull out asking them to instead affirm their support to the court.

It further indicated that this year Nigeria and Ghana affirmed their support for the court acknowledging it as a crucial last resort for justice.

The letter comes four before the extraordinary AU summit on the ICC scheduled for October 12 and 13 in Addis Ababa.
The meeting is said to be a platform for the states to make a decision on whether or not the 34 nations should withdraw from the Rome Statute in support of Kenya.

Kenya has already started the process of pulling out from the Rome Statute and initial reports had indicated that other African states would do the same as a result of the court’s apparent targeting of Africans.

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