Thursday June 10 2010

ICC, must determine crime of aggression, African states insist

By Alfred Nyongesa Wandera

The 3O Africa states that are parties to the Rome Statute have unanimously agreed that it is the International Criminal Court and not the UN Security Council that shall determine whether crime of aggression has been committed.

Speaking to Daily Monitor in an exclusive interview at the ongoing ICC Review Conference in Kampala, the African delegation led by Sierra Leone Deputy Foreign minister Vandi Chidi Minah, said they are determined to convince states opposed to their proposition.

“We shall listen and clarify to those with opposing views and bring all of them on board. We shall achieve this by way of consensus,” said Mr Minah, who exuded confidence that the Kampala meet will operationalise the crime of aggression.

The Kenyan ambassador and permanent representative of Kenya mission to UN Zachary Muburi-Muita said by ICC wielding powers to determine whether crime of aggression has been committed is democratising international political system.

“Instead of having only the five permanent members to the UN Security Council decide for the whole world whether the crime has been committed, we want the authority to be in hands of all state parties to the Rome Statute through ICC,” said Mr Muburi-Muita.

To galvanise the Kenyan ambassador’s statement, Botswana Attorney General Dr Athaliah Molokomme said although the world acknowledges that UN is charged with the responsibility to ensure global peace and security, it does not wield exclusive role.

“That is why African state parties to the Rome Statute want the ICC to complement the UN Security Council’s role in keeping international peace and security. Let Security Council play the political role whereas the ICC plays the legal role to balance the two,” said Dr Molokomme.

She added that the concept of ICC is a new phenomenon in the international legal system and may take time for all countries in the world to come to terms with.

But the clock is ticking towards Friday when the conference closes and the world is watching whether the crime of aggression will become operational by the ICC.

The non-state parties to the Rome Statute like US, Russia, and China have warned that Africa should go slow on operationalising the crime, but African states that form the biggest single continental block of membership to ICC want it done now.

The parties also reiterated that they are bound to the Rome Statute and therefore cannot defy the orders given by the ICC especially in implementing arrest warrants issued against the indicted leaders like Sudan President Omar el-Bashir.

Dr Molokomme said only the 23 African states that are not signatories to ICC can abide by the position of the African Union that is opposed to ICC’s indictment of sitting heads of states.

This thwarts Mr Bashir’s efforts to call on AU to change the venue of its forthcoming summit in Kampala to allow him attend.

Mr Bashir is wanted by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the conflict in Sudan's western Darfur region.

Recent statements from Khartoum had indicated that President Bashir would petition AU to change venue of the summit to another country after it emerged that President Museveni, the host, had not invited him to avoid backlash in case Uganda implemented the arrest warrant during his visit in Kampala.

But Uganda has since backtracked on the earlier decision, and yesterday, Daily Monitor newspaper reported that the indicted Bashir has been invited for the Kampala meet.

Uganda is perceived to be playing double standards on whether to stick to ICC position or comply with the AU resolution not to arrest Mr Bashir. Time will tell what will take precedence between the two anecdotal positions for Uganda.