The most effective way to resolve Africa’s concerns with the International Criminal Court (ICC) is not by withdrawing from the court‚ but through the mechanisms available to ICC members: the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) and the Rome Statute.
This is the view of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS)‚ which is attending the 15th session of the ASP in the Hague.
The ICC has been in the news recently for its rocky relationship with Africa.
South Africa‚ the Gambia and Burundi recently submitted notices to withdraw from the ICC. Other African countries have indicated similar intentions.
The organisation said African states’ concerns with the ICC were well publicised but often badly understood and all too easily brushed aside.
“To ignore Africa’s concerns with the ICC is to risk undermining the future of the international criminal justice project as a whole‚” ISS senior researcher Allan Ngari said.
The most notorious among these concerns – and often the elephant in the courtroom – is the matter of immunity for sitting heads of state.
This was aggravated by the unequal approach to international justice at the global level.
“The root of Africa’s problem with the ICC is the imbalanced geo-political configuration of the international community of states‚” says Ngari.
At present‚ there are 34 African states parties to the Rome Statute‚ making it the largest geographic bloc.
He said the link between the United Nations Security Council and the ICC has complicated the court’s work.
This was because any of the permanent five members can stop a conflict from being investigated by the ICC – as was the case with Syria‚ when both China and Russia voted against referring the situation to the ICC.
“Unless this root cause is addressed‚ it will explicitly continue to undermine international criminal justice – not just for Africa and the Rome Statute‚ but also beyond the ICC.”
Ngari said the ICC needs to be reformed from the inside out.
“But there are other ways to address concerns‚ and‚ in the process‚ strengthen the ICC. For African states parties‚ the best shot at reforming the ICC is from the inside out – making use of the mechanisms contained in the Rome Statute.”
He said Article 119(2) allowed for disputes relating to the Rome Statute to be settled between states‚ while‚ according to Article 121‚ any state party may propose amendments to the Rome Statute.
Such proposals might result in a review conference‚ where a two-thirds majority vote could see a proposal adopted.
Another senior researcher at the ISS‚ Ottilia Anna Maunganidze‚ said the global south made up a total of 81 states at the ASP.
With support from this community‚ African states parties could succeed in amending the Rome Statute.
“This‚ however‚ means that African states must lobby better and strategically‚” Maunganidze said.
The ISS said other states parties must take Africa’s concerns seriously‚ and acknowledge the risks of not doing so.
The organisation said the ICC and its various organs must consider the issue of diplomatic immunity openly and proactively‚ and prioritise cases from outside Africa. — TMG Digital