ICC: Experts urge African govts to strengthen judicial institutions

Some experts have called on African Heads of State and Government to strengthen national and regional legal institutions to deal with impunity, provide justice to all and improve governance.

The experts in interviews in Abuja, agreed that well-governed countries with strong institutions did not need the intervention of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate acts of injustice.

Former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Bulus Lolo said that the countries resorted to the ICC to deal with impunity in their systems of governance.

“The trigger for and ICC investigation and action is impunity and failure to act; make institutions work stronger; it has to begin at the national level.

“Let our judicial institutions work and be seen to be working. Let political leaders and others stop interfering with judicial processes.

“They should just allow our courts to work as prescribed by law without favour or fear of any reprisal, and then we would see pronouncements coming out.

“Let there be equal treatment; if at the slightest instance of injustice, the national courts function, they ensure that criminals are punished, offences are commensurate with what the law says.

“Then no foreigner will tell us how to take care of our home.”

He, however, said that the call for withdrawal by the African Union from the ICC was a “wrong move”.

“The decision to join ICC was taken individually by the member states that signed on to the ICC.

“The obligation, duty of membership as well as the consequences for non-compliance with the statutes of membership rests with individual not with the continent.

“If the AU decides today to pass a resolution, I do not see how such resolution will be binding; the AU lacks the competence to direct a country that has taken a sovereign national decision in its own interest to act against such interest.”

He reiterated the call for countries to address any grievances from within the system.

Mr Obono Obla, Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution said the decisions of countries’ to be part of an international system were to bring about enhanced international cooperation and understanding.

Obla also called for countries seeking to withdraw to resort to dialogue from within the ICC.

“It is not like the ICC just hears any matter; it has to be shown that domestic remedies have been exhausted before the ICC can interfere.

“What they (countries) should do is push for political pressure so that those wanting to back out come back; they should stay within and push for reforms where needed,” he said.

From 2009, African countries have called for collective withdrawal from the ICC but some countries have pushed back.

The African Union had in January during plenary at the 28th AU Summit in Addis Ababa called for collective withdrawal of its members from the Court.

The summit argued that African countries were not fairly treated by the court hence members should withdraw.

African state parties to the Rome Statute make up the biggest regional membership, comprising 34 of the 124 members.

Burundi, South Africa and The Gambia, in 2016 publicly declared their intention to withdraw from the court; The Gambia, in Feb. announced its return to the ICC.

Subsequently, Namibia, Kenya and Uganda began to contemplate withdrawing from ICC.

African state parties to the Rome Statute make up the biggest regional membership, comprising 34 of the 124 members.