Un­der fire, ICC vows to hunt per­pe­tra­tors of atroc­i­ties S Africa, Bu­rundi, Gam­bia to leave In­ter­na­tional Court

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court’s pros­e­cu­tor said her in­ves­ti­ga­tions into al­leged war crimes would not be im­pacted by the plans of three African coun­tries to with­draw from the court and she would keep go­ing after the per­pe­tra­tors of atroc­i­ties. Fa­tou Ben­souda said her of­fice would press ahead with the pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Bu­rundi and her work had the sup­port of more than 120 other mem­ber states. Gam­bia, South Africa and Bu­rundi no­ti­fied the United Na­tions in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber of their plans to with­draw from the ICC.

The with­drawals be­come ef­fec­tive one year after the no­ti­fi­ca­tion is filed. To date, all but one of the court’s 10 in­ves­ti­ga­tions have been in Africa and its five con­victed sus­pects are from Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, Cen­tral African Repub­lic and Mali. The ICC re­jects al­le­ga­tions of bias against African na­tions, ar­gu­ing many of the cases were brought by African govern­ments them­selves and that it has 10 pre­lim­i­nary in­quiries or in­ves­ti­ga­tions into al­leged atroc­i­ties in Afghanistan, Colom­bia, Ge­or­gia, Iraq, the Pales­tinian Ter­ri­to­ries and Ukraine.

Ben­souda, a Gam­bian for­mer jus­tice min­is­ter, said the court be­gan its work in 2002 with over­whelm­ing African sup­port and that African coun­tries had re­quested the ICC’s in­ter­ven­tion. “Even if one coun­try de­cides to with­draw from the ICC, this I believe, for the con­ti­nent, speak­ing as an African, is a set­back for the con­ti­nent and this is also a re­gres­sion for the con­ti­nent,” she said. Rus­sia, which is not a mem­ber of the court but signed its found­ing Rome Statute, said this month it would re­move its sig­na­ture and the Philip­pines is con­sid­er­ing with­draw­ing its mem­ber­ship.

‘Don’t look away’

Ben­souda coun­tered con­cerns of a mass de­par­ture of mem­ber states and said all other states had re­newed their com­mit­ment to the court, which has a man­date to pros­e­cute war crimes, crimes against hu­man­ity and geno­cide. The ICC is a court of last re­sort, only in­ter­ven­ing in mem­ber coun­tries when na­tional ju­ris­dic­tions are un­able or un­will­ing to pros­e­cute mass atroc­i­ties. Ben­souda launched a pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Bu­rundi in April after po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence killed hun­dreds of peo­ple and forced hun­dreds of thou­sands to flee abroad. “We will con­tinue to do our work with re­spect to what we have started in Bu­rundi,” she said, say­ing its obli­ga­tions un­der the Rome Statute re­mained un­til the oneyear no­ti­fi­ca­tion pe­riod ended.

If, dur­ing that time, pros­e­cu­tors de­ter­mine that crimes must be for­mally in­ves­ti­gated, Bu­rundi would be ob­li­gated to co­op­er­ate with the court, she said. In the Philip­pines, which joined the court in 2011, the pros­e­cu­tor warned in Oc­to­ber that the ex­tra­ju­di­cial killing of thou­sands of al­leged drug users and deal­ers could con­sti­tute crimes that fall un­der her ju­ris­dic­tion. The al­le­ga­tions are not the sub­ject of a pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the first le­gal step to­ward a pros­e­cu­tion. “It is im­por­tant as pros­e­cu­tor of the ICC to raise con­cerns,” she said. “It is also im­por­tant that I don’t look away be­cause this is ex­actly why this court was es­tab­lished.” — Reuters

THE HAGUE: Pros­e­cu­tor Fa­tou Ben­souda waits at the court room of the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC) ahead of a trial, at The Hague in the Nether­lands. — AFP

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