Ethiopia: AU foreign ministers finally agree on mass pullout from ICC

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - African foreign ministers have agreed to a plan for pulling out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and immediately begin work on local justice mechanisms, saying The Hague-based court, offered little chance of advancing justice in the continent, PANA reported Friday.

Foreign Ministers from 28 countries agreed to back the mass withdrawal of all the countries that have signed the Rome Statute although the call would not be imposed on any member state.

“We discussed the mass withdrawal from the ICC. I participated in the debate in my capacity as an international human rights lawyer,” said Dr Hussein Ibrahim Karshoum, Secretary of the Sudan Peace Fund, a Presidential Fund for Economic and Development Affairs.

The decision to withdraw from the ICC has been at the forefront of discussions at the AU, but this is the first time that the AU’s Open-Ended Ministerial Committee on the ICC, currently chaired by Ethiopia, with Algeria, Burundi, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda, as its management bureau.

The countries which participated at the ministerial meeting on the ICC were Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Chad, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Equatorial Guinea.

The others were Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Sudan, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The AU Executive Council, which wound up its meeting on Friday after preparing the AU Summit agenda, adopted a new strategy on how to manage justice in Africa after the ICC exit.

“Leaving the ICC en mass was a hot issue because of the dichotomy between peace and justice. There is a belief that the national courts should be given first opportunity to try suspects of human rights violations and there are lessons learnt from Sierra Leone and Rwanda tribunals,” the lawyer said.

While the Executive Council adopted the decision to pull out of the ICC, the final steps on when to pull out would be made by the countries on an individual basis.

However, those which agree to pull out of the court agreed to do so simultaneously.

During the debate, Sudan, whose President Omar Hassan El Bashir has been wanted by the ICC for crimes committed in Darfur, Sudan’s western region, argued that although it was not a member of the Rome Statute, Khartoum felt the influence of the UN Security Council on the Court politicized justice.

“The UN Security Council is not a member state. Neither are any of its permanent members signatories to the Rome Statute. The Council should therefore be disqualified from the Rome Statute," said Karshoum.

The ministers of foreign affairs agreed reforms, which include purging the UN Security Council, from referring cases to the Court is dealt with.

The ministers also raised issues about the evaluation of evidence and how witnesses appearing at the ICC were chosen.

“We feel that the contentions that Sudan has always had on the ICC is growing stronger, speaking both politically and morally. We feel that the ICC is not helping anyone to achieve justice neither does it afford justice to the victims of human rights abuses,” said Karshoum.

During the ministerial debate, the foreign ministers agreed to use the case of South Africa in dealing with the post apartheid regime elements as a case in point on handling justice in Africa.

“We have viable systems in Africa. We have to strengthen the African Court as a last resort. The other option agreed is to strengthen local courts because the ICC affords justice to a few people. It does not subscribe to all cases and it has 10 out of all 11 cases touching on Africa without justice,” Karshoum said.

-0- PANA AO/AR 27Jan2017

27 january 2017 18:42:48

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