African ex­perts pos­i­tive there will be no more ICC with­drawals

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

THE HAGUE — The Africa Group for Jus­tice and Ac­count­abil­ity has imag­ined a pos­i­tive fu­ture for the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC), and pre­dicted that no fur­ther coun­tries will with­draw.

It emerged from the independent group of ex­perts who met on Mon­day night that Jus­tice Min­is­ter Michael Ma­sutha’s visit to the ICC in The Hague last week was an en­cour­ag­ing sign that noth­ing was set in stone.

The five of 12 group mem­bers in at­ten­dance pre­sented a united front at their As­sem­bly of States Par­ties side-event, ti­tled “Imag­in­ing the fu­ture of In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Jus­tice”. ICC pres­i­dent Sil­via Fernán­dez de Gur­mendi sat in the front row. She as­sured that the court was in good health, do­ing the work for which it was cre­ated and demon­strat­ing it could de­liver “high­qual­ity jus­tice”.

If Fernán­dez de Gur­mendi was to be be­lieved, there was still an over­all con­fi­dence in the court.

“The dif­fi­cul­ties that we have en­coun­tered have gen­er­ated an ex­tra­or­di­nary out­pour­ing of sup­port in the last week, demon­strat­ing that sup­port for the court and for jus­tice and ac­count­abil­ity re­mains strong.”

The re­cent with­drawals of South Africa, The Gam­bia, and Bu­rundi ini­tially sparked fears of a domino ef­fect by other African state par­ties.

How­ever, many had since shaken the no­tion of a united con­ti­nen­tal front by af­firm­ing the role of the court, or be­liev­ing there was space as a mem­ber to fix is­sues.

South Africa’s sud­den no­tice to with­draw from the found­ing treaty of the ICC ini­tially sad­dened for­mer Con­sti­tu­tional Court jus­tice Richard Gold­stone.

But he said he was less pes­simistic af­ter hear­ing Ma­sutha speak­ing about his visit.

“It was a re­spect­ful meet­ing and a con­struc­tive meet­ing, per­haps not too op­ti­mistic, but at least there was a civil and re­spect­ful de­bate,” he told a full venue.

“As I un­der­stand it, the min­is­ter in­di­cated that his timetable with a year to go, things could change.”

The group was set up a year ago to ad­vance jus­tice and ac­count­abil­ity mea­sures on the con­ti­nent, and was tasked with en­hanc­ing co-op­er­a­tion be­tween Africa and the court.

Has­san Jal­low, a Gam­bian lawyer and ju­rist, re­vealed they had of­fered their ser­vices as me­di­a­tors for find­ing a res­o­lu­tion in light of the with­drawals. “We can ex­pect from now a bet­ter re­la­tion­ship,” he said, later adding “we stand here will­ing to find a so­lu­tion”. He be­lieved the ICC’s sit­u­a­tion would not get worse. Botswana’s at­tor­ney gen­eral Athaliah Molokomme said jus­tice and ac­count­abil­ity would con­tinue to dom­i­nate the con­ti­nen­tal dis­course this year.

She was op­ti­mistic about the African State par­ties as long as di­a­logue re­mained open.

For di­a­logue to take place, there had to be re­spect, trust and mu­tual un­der­stand­ing, un­der­lined Al­ge­rian di­plo­mat Fatiha Ser­our.

Putting a pos­i­tive spin on re­cent de­vel­op­ments, she said: “The more con­cerns, and re­sis­tance and hesitation we have from some, the more re­solve we have from oth­ers to ac­tu­ally pur­sue jus­tice and ac­count­abil­ity in Africa and other con­ti­nents.”

Gold­stone said South Africa’s case had raised “un­usual and unique le­gal chal­lenges,” which would be tested by the High Court in Jo­han­nes­burg in De­cem­ber. “What is be­ing sought is an or­der com­pelling the South African govern­ment to with­draw their with­drawal and to give ap­pro­pri­ate no­tice.”

How­ever, he be­lieved such an or­der would not re­sult in govern­ment be­ing thwarted in leav­ing the Rome Statute, but de­lay it at most.

This was in light of a bill be­fore Par­lia­ment for the re­peal of do­mes­tic leg­is­la­tion in­cor­po­rat­ing the pro­vi­sions of the Rome Statute. “I think we are in for a fairly ex­tended pe­riod of de­bate in South Africa in re­spect of the courts and in re­spect of Par­lia­ment. There is a lot of water yet to flow un­der the bridge in the mean­time.” — AFP

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