The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, has warned African countries that withdrawing from the International Criminal Court, ICC, could have grave implications for victims seeking redress for serious human rights violations.
Mr. Dieng, who stated this in a commentary, said the setting up of the tribunal was a “reckoning” for those who had long disregarded the lives and dignity of their people.
The UN envoy explained that the ideals and values that inspired the creation of ICC still hold true.
“The establishment of the Court signified a global commitment to protect victims, when national judicial mechanisms lacked the capacity, willingness or jurisdiction to prosecute those responsible for the most serious crimes,” he said.
Highlighting the significance of the Court, Mr. Dieng said that the fact that most of the cases in the continent were submitted by African States themselves, reaffirmed their belief that it would strengthen the rule of law and respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms of the African people.
He, however, added that in spite of the ICC’s achievements, it is increasingly coming under threat, with recent announcements by Burundi, South Africa and The Gambia to withdraw from the Rome Statute.
“Other States have threatened to do so, if certain conditions are not met,” he said, noting that key among the concerns raised by these countries included the “lack of fairness in the prosecution decisions of the Court, perceived by some to disproportionately”.
Drawing attention to the ongoing atrocities in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, South Sudan and in other parts of the world, he underlined that the time is not right to abandon the Court.
“Rather, States and non-State members should reaffirm their commitment to strengthen the Rome Statute and ensure accountability for these horrendous crimes,” Mr. Dieng said.
He appealed to African countries to work collectively to ensure that the Court could effectively administer international criminal justice without fear or favour, contribute to the fight against impunity, and promote respect for the rule of law and human rights.
“As someone who witnessed first-hand the horrors in Rwanda, the Former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone and elsewhere, and who has been closely involved in the delivery of international justice at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, I know too well the consequences when the international community undermines the efforts of international justice.
“We owe it to the victims of these horrendous crimes to strengthen rather than undermine the International Criminal Court, and to reaffirm our commitment to the Rome Statute to ‘put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes and thus contribute to their prevention,” he said.
According to him, a candid dialogue by the African countries and ICC will enhance mutual trust and cooperation.
Since the adoption of the Rome Statute in 1998, more than half of the world’s States have joined the Court, 34 among them are African nations, the biggest regional block to date .
In July 2017, the Court’s founding Statue will mark the 15th anniversary of its entry into force.