, CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Mar 23 – Discussions on issues affecting the relationship between Africa and the International Criminal Court (ICC) have begun to take shape through the Africa Group for Justice and Accountability (AGJA).
AGJA, an independent group of senior African experts on international criminal and human rights established in November, 2015 seeks to create a platform to discuss and indentify issues that have led to a souring relationship between the two parties.
A member of the group, Navi Pillay, and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights believes disagreements between Africa and ICC can be resolved through engagements with the court and African member states.
“AGJA believes that justice and accountability on the African continent and elsewhere are better served by possible engagement with and membership in the ICC,” he said.
In her view, the issues “can and should be managed by the relevant parties by cooperating and engaging meaningfully as state parties to the Rome Statute.”
Some African member states and observers have differed with the ICC on a variety of issues especially on how the court selects situations which they argue are only targeting Africa, and further accuse the court of double standards in the manner in which it handles cases involving Africans.
In Kenya for example, the government and defence teams of Deputy President William Ruto and former radio host Joshua arap Sang have continuously accused the court of mismanaging their case right from investigations, selection of witnesses and persist in hanging on to a ‘crumbling case’ which they argue lacks evidence.
They have particularly complained about the Office of The Prosecutor which in their view, conducted ‘shady’ investigations and is depending on insufficient evidence to push a case that they argue lacks basis.
On Tuesday, ICC President said she was committed to ensure that the court is more efficient, effective and transparent in its work.
Part of measures the court has undertaken to address some of the concerns includes new ways of selecting situations and cases.
She also defended the court’s intervention in Africa explaining that when the court was established in 2003, ‘its initial years coincided with the eruption or continuation of situations of violence in several African countries where the court had jurisdiction.’
However, African states have questioned whether it was only in Africa that violence which meets the threshold of international crimes, had escalated.
They have also questioned the role of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in referring cases to the court raising eyebrows on the criteria it uses.
Whereas, UNSC referred the case of for example Southern Sudan (which is not a member of the ICC), African states have asked why it has not referred other countries outside Africa where alleged crimes against humanity have taken place.
Apart from accusing the UNSC of politicising referrals, they have also questioned why despite some of its members not being signatories to the Rome Statute it feels morally justified to refer states to the ICC.
Tim Murithi, Head of Justice and Reconciliation in Africa programme, Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town,
Legal experts believe to promote good working relationship between ICC and Africa, the court has to engage African governments and their leaders who on the other hand have to speak out about their issues with the court.