JUNE 7, 2010: African Legislators See Bias in ICC's Workings

African Legislators See Bias in ICC's Workings
SOURCE: The East African
By Charles Kazooba
Parliamentarians from member-countries of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Africa are accusing the Court for selectively pursuing justice by focusing on investigating suspected criminals mainly from this continent.

They said that while the ICC is keen on investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity in Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, the Court is sitting on numerous complaints against Western leaders who are accused of causing untold suffering from wars they started in the Middle East.

They said that the ICC appears to act under influence of some Western powers who use it as an instrument to weed out leaders who are against their policies in Africa.

Officials from the ICC office however said that the accusations lacked substance because the constitution of the Court's Judges' panel is dominated by Judges from Africa.

The MPs' sentiments were expressed at the 6th consultative assembly of parliamentarians for ICC and the rule of law on May 26 in Kampala ahead of the first grand review meeting convened to assess the effectiveness of the Court in implementing the Rome Statute.

"The ICC as a court per see is innocent. Our problem is that the process of indictment is usually politicised. For instance, the United States's voice is loudest yet it isn't a member of the ICC. But those who are members but with little international influence cannot have their grievances listened to," said Isaac Musumba, Uganda's Minister for Regional Co-operation.

In Africa, the ICC Prosecutor has opened cases against 16 individuals for alleged crimes from northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and the Darfur region of Sudan.

In addition, the Prosecutor is investigating post-election violence in Kenya and analysing situations - a preliminary step towards initiating a full investigation - in Guinea and several other African countries, as well as several countries outside of Africa.

But critics of the ICC have often cited the atrocities in Gaza as an example of the court's bias against Africa, by not investigating the atrocities there.

In addition, more than 50 complaints against former US President George W. Bush and ex-British prime minister Tony Blair have been forwarded to the ICC for investigation with no lack.

It is possibly because of that perceived bias that the African Union and the Organisation of Islamic Conference have stood in defence of Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes committed in Darfur.

Ten charges against the Sudanese leader, three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity, and two of murder were filed against him.

But to justify his claims Judge Sang-Hyun argued that a quarter of the entire ICC staff are from Africa and five out of 11 judges are African. "We rely on African co-operation and African contribution to the ICC is very important," he said.

A number of provisions in the ICC Statute have been referred for amendment so that the court is no longer a barking dog but one that is capable of biting.

They include the definition of the crime of aggression and protection of victims. Also being considered is confiscation of assets of those prosecuted under the Rome Statute.

However, critics argue that there doesn't seem to be a level field for prosecution of culprits - that apart from African suspects others have not been pursued.

"In the Arab world some of us still wonder whether there is real justice at ICC. We have raised the issue of jurisdiction. Its time to listen to us (Arabs)," said Dr. Salah Ali Abdulrahman during the ICC debate in Kampala.

The prosecutor has himself come under heavy criticism from African states calling for his powers to be clipped even.