bensouda-articleLarge-v2The International Criminal Court will not allow politics to affect the cases it is handling, the court. The top judges were reacting to the African Union’s demand that the court drop the cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto as well as to claims that the ICC was targeting African leaders because of their race.
Uhuru and Ruto are facing crimes against humanity charges arising out of the 2007/08 post election violence. The judges said they acknowledge and respected the African Union for its “important role as the continent’s main regional organization”.
“As an impartial international judicial institution, the ICC, including its independent Office of the Prosecutor, strives to maintain good working relationships with all relevant international and regional bodies, including the African Union,” said the statement by the ICC presidency which comprises of three judges: Sang-Hyun Song, Sanji Mmasenono and Cuno Tarfusser.
The ICC said it valued its relationship with Africa as 43 out of 53 African countries have signed the Rome Statute which established the court while 34 have ratified it. That makes Africa the continent the most heavily represented continent in the court.
In defense of the ICC, the judges mentioned that all eight cases from Africa being investigated by the ICC were referred to the court by the African countries themselves. The three judges said the court operated strictly within the mandate and legal framework created by the Rome Statute and cannot take political factors into account.
“Decisions are taken independently on the basis of the law and the available evidence and are not based on regional or ethnic considerations. Judges are the guarantors of the fairness of proceedings before the Court, from the authorization of investigations to the confirmation or non-confirmation of charges and decisions on guilt or innocence,” they said. Also, the judges reminded the AU that the cases before the court are not only about the suspects or the accused but also the thousands of victims of the events under investigation or trial.
They said the criteria for deciding whether cases should be tried before the ICC or in a national judicial system are clear. “This determination is made through a judicial process by independent judges of the ICC. In all proceedings before the ICC, suspects as well as concerned States have the possibility to address these matters,” they said.
Kenya has asked the UN Security Council terminate the Uhuru and Ruto cases but the judges said that the Security Council has no role in the judicial process of a case apart from referring or deferring cases.
The judges added that the court has a specific judicial mandate to end impunity and to contribute to the prevention of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.
Meanwhile, Ugandan national David Matsanga has alleged that the ICC plans to detain Uhuru and Ruto in a luxurious hotel when they arrive for their trials.
Matsanga said he had video evidence to prove that former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, his successor Bensouda and the pre-trial judge Ekaterina Trendafilova perjured themselves to ‘fix’ Uhuru and Ruto.
While it may be the case that the ICC is not racially motivated, I find it hard to understand why the eight cases under the court are all from African countries and why a country such as Libya and Egypt were considered “capable” or conducting the trials following the revolutions but not Kenya. And just because the Chief Prosecutor is from Africa, it does not follow that the court does not target cases related to Africa.