The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established by the Rome Statute which is an international treaty/agreement binding on countries who are signatories to and ratify the convention. The Rome Statute is a diplomatic treaty that was adopted and came into force on the 1st July, 2002 and established the ICC. The Rome Statute has 139 signatories and 124 parties to it.
By the provisions of the Rome Statute, the ICC has the power to investigate and prosecute on the following core international crimes:
- Crimes against humanity
- War crimes
- Crime of aggression.
The investigative powers of the ICC is mostly triggered where states who are signatories to the Rome Statute are either unable or unwilling to investigate the above listed international crimes under the jurisdiction of the court. Also in instances where the state or the government is complicit in the commission through its actions and inactions, then ICC may also drag such a government to the ICC for prosecution. Although the jurisdiction of the ICC only covers the actions of the state party to the Rome Statute or the state party’s nationals, the ICC, in some exceptional cases where the United Nations Security Council authorizes it to do so, may exercise jurisdiction over a non-state party to the Statute.
Over the past 10 years, the African Union and African Head of States have stated that the International Criminal Court was and is biased with its one-sided investigation and its prosecutions being focused primarily on Africa. Although the ICC and most especially the current ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has reiterated that the ICC is not biased against African leaders, on the contrary, she said most of the cases being handled by the ICC were/are actually referred to the ICC by Africa countries through the United Nations Security Council Resolutions passed for that purpose which most African Countries always vote in favour of.
In all of these debates between the ICC and African Head of States about the genuine intentions of the ICC or lack thereof, the common African man, woman and child, young and old are the ones really feeling the effects of it all.
One of the most nagging questions I ask is; why do many Africans call the ICC to exercise jurisdiction in a situation where the domestic courts in these countries could have assumed jurisdiction?
It is common knowledge that in Africa, the illiteracy rate is very high and there is no easy access to education which means that an average African man is unaware of his rights under the law, how to exercise these rights etc. It would not be farfetched to posit that the only things Africans are more aware of than the law is the election season, how to complain, and how to find a way to leave Africa for greener pastures among others, however when it pertains to the issue of getting social justice, Africans will rather outsource it to an International Court or tribunal for reparation.
The general lack of faith of an average African in the capacity of African head of States to provide social justice as well as in the judiciary to uphold the law in all fairness and equity has led them to look outside of Africa, to the ICC for justice, but this is not the way to protect the future.
As Africans, are we going to keep outsourcing justice? African countries have numerous courts with different jurisdictions, also there is also the African Commission, the African Court of Human And People’s’ Rights, and then there are regional courts which serve the various regions like the ECOWAS Court etc. Instead of looking towards the ICC the majority of the time, why not invest more in politics, governance, administration and so on in order to effect the change we want to see in Africa?
It is not rocket science that the current crop of African leaders have no dreams, direction and most importantly, they lack the vision that is needed to move Africa forward. It may look amazing to have the ICC come to the rescue in the effective prosecution of African tyrants and former Heads of States found wanting, but the will these prosecutions help our own Judicial systems and administrative systems as a whole?