The International Criminal Court (ICC) president, Silvia Fernandez, has accused some African states of claiming that the world tribunal only targets it’s leaders and intentionally leaves out perpetrators from western countries.
She said the belief has only fueled young African member states to continue falling for such claims thus influencing them to withdraw from ICC, foiling the court's push for equal justice.
“The ICC is a court of last resort that aims at fighting for justice and so there is no way it is targeting only African countries. If the court was formed five years ago (before 1998) maybe the court would have considered prosecuting [the perpetrators who were involved wars in the ] Balkan and Slovakia rather some African states that were the first to come to the ICC,” she said.
Fernandez made the remarks shortly after visiting the Lord Resistance War (LRA) survivors who are now benefiting from Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) in the Eastern African country of Uganda.
Several African countries had threatened to leave the ICC – South Africa, Gambia and Burundi, a move which Fernando says has only encouraged loyal African member states to threaten to leave without clear intentions.
Last month, the South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma spearheaded the withdrawal from ICC. However, his decision was blocked by his country’s High Court declaring it unconstitutional.
Earlier on, Gambia, now under a new government, revealed to the United Nations (UN) that it would remain in the ICC. This was after its new president, Adam Barrow, reversed the decision that his predecessor, Yahya Jammeh, had made.
Jammeh had accused ICC of ignoring alleged war crimes of western nations and seeking only to prosecute Africans. However, Barrow pledged to undo his predecessor’s decision and restore human rights and badly damaged foreign relations.
Fernandez also added that over the years, the court has concentrated on cases on which they needed thorough examination.
She particularly lauded Uganda for her cooperation as a member state and appealed other African countries to emulate the same by working closely with the world body.
Fernandez's statement is ironic in a sense that, last year, during his swearing in ceremony, the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni insulted the ICC when he described it as ‘a bunch of useless people’, a remark that forced European envoys to leave the function in protest.
Sudanese president, Omar Al-Bashir, who looked seemingly amused by the remark clapped his hands as he cheered on.
Bashir is the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the ICC. An arrest warrant was issued against him in 2009, for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the strife-torn Darfur region
Asked why the criminal court's trials have taken long, Fernando said many of the cases needed more time to be examined so as to have a fair trial for the victims. In the last six years, only 8 convictions have been made at the ICC.