• The International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor, Mrs Fatou Bensouda has refuted claims that ICC is targeting only the African nations.

    Mrs Bensouda clarified that the basic objective of the ICC is to stop impunity, noting that many African countries are generally unwilling to prosecute offenders of heinous crimes, forcing the ICC to step in.

    Describing the ICC as the court of last resort, Bensouda said it only arbitrated if countries under its jurisdiction were unable or unwilling to prosecute atrocious crimes.

    She noted that the court would normally decline jurisdiction once a country under its mandate had its own activated internal justice system to try heinous crimes.

    The Punchng reported that the Director of the Complementary and Cooperation Division of the ICC, Mr. Phakiso Mochochoko, was representing Bensouda at the just concluded first African Bar Leaders Conference held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Lagos.

    The conference whose theme was “Reducing poverty and promoting sustainable economic growth in Africa through reforms in the administration of justice,” was held on Sunday, April 10 to Wednesday, April 13.

    The conference was hosted by the Nigerian Bar Association and had bar leaders from 53 countries across the African continent in attendance.

    Speaking at the event, Mr Mochochoko said, “the unfortunate reality is that African countries have shown an unwillingness to prosecute, and it is for us as lawyers to address this anomaly.

    “If the national systems are willing to prosecute crimes, then the ICC will have no business interfering in any country at all.”

    He called on people to contend with issues of terrorism, human trafficking, child molestation as well as money laundering.

    Effective witness protection

    He added that there was a need to advance ways of developing “effective witness protection as well as those of whistle blowers”.

    Mochochoko noted that there was a rising trend of crime in African societies, and stressed the need for adequate prosecution of offenders, to serve as a deterrent.

    “Justice is not the exclusive preserve of an individual; it is something that binds us all together whether at the national, regional or international levels; it is an aspiration for which lawyers must be able to contribute,” he added.

    Following the post-election violence (PEV) in Kenya that left more than a thousand people dead and tens of thousands displaced, the ICC took up the case that caused an uproar among African nations arguing that the continent was being targeted.

    Through the Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the African Union (AU) said, “we have arrived at the conclusion that the International Criminal Court, whose establishment was strongly supported by Africa… is no longer a court for all”.

    Although the ICC did not bat due to these ungrounded attacks, the cases which involved the current Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto, and broadcaster Joshua Sang for allegedly masterminding the PEV, have since been thrown out for lack of adequate evidence.

    President Kenyatta’s case was dropped in December 2015 in what was termed as a case soiled with allegations of witness intimidation, bribery, and false testimony.

    Ruto and his co-accused cases were recently (April 5, 2016) thrown out after judges ruled that the prosecutors had failed to marshal enough incriminating evidence.

    While most Kenyans and Africans welcomed the judgement, PEV victims remain traumatized and their justice unmet. The Kenyan government has however promised to continue compensating the victims and foster reconciliation among communities.

    According to Mochochoko, “justice is not just for the victim of the crime, but also for the perpetrators of such crimes; that is, even the worst criminal is entitled to a legal representation of his choice”.

    He added that for justice to be meaningful, it must be fair clean, independent and impartial – these are the basic tenets of justice anywhere, and if its tenets are not respected, then it is not justice.

    Established in 2002, the ICC has struggled to enforce its will in countries that are reluctant to work with it. Apart from Kenya’s cases, the court is still finding it difficult to reach Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and guerrilla leader Joseph Kony.

    “The question for us as Africans is: can we ensure that the justice being dispensed at the regional, sub-regional or national levels is fair, independent and impartial?” Mochochoko posed the question to the participants at the African Bar Leaders Conference and the continent at large.

    Image credit: citizentv.co.ke