As African leaders still debate over the issue of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and need for their immunity, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation executive director Timothy Mtambo has faulted the stand of Tanzania’s president Jakaya Kikwete on the issue of ICC.
Kikwete who presided over the recent 16th Annual Sadc Lawyers’ Association Conference and General Meeting held in Tanzania last week attacked ICC for persecuting African leaders while letting equally culpable leaders in the West scot-free.
“ICC should immediately stop persecuting African leaders,” charged Kikwete at the conference. “There is quite a number of European leaders with dubious record of crimes against humanity but they are neither questioned nor stand trials while African leaders are dragged to court for lighter offences.”
But taking his turn after Kikwete, Mtambo who is also executive director of the Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation (CHRR), completely differed with the Tanzania leader when he addressed the gathering on a topic called: “The proposed criminal jurisdiction mandate for the African Court; Progress or Regression in handling international crimes in Africa”.
“It would arguably be said that the ICC was to a greater extent accepted by Africans as an African Court with the focus of ensuring international criminal justice and fight impunity on the continent,” argued Mtambo.
The activist then said resistance from African leaders only demonstrates their impunity over the matter.
“African leaders should ultimately be assessed by their commitment to enhance the values of democracy and justice for the victims of serious crimes- not by their unrepentant efforts at nurturing the culture of impunity at the expense of the rights of the citizens,” he argued.
Mtambo said the notion that political power can be a safe haven for impunity would create dangerous double standard.
“Fighting impunity requires not only time and determination: It also requires political support and commitment. Let’s all directly participate in the fight against impunity for the gravest crimes so that those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide –whoever they are and wherever they are – can be held accountable for crimes that gravely offend human dignity and human rights,” he said.
Mtambo said ICC is strongly supported by Africans and hence Kikwete was wrong to assert that Africa is targeted considering that seven out of nine cases at the ICC were referred by Africans themselves.
“Two wrongs do not make right so to say if other countries are not targeted then fighting for immunity is not a solution because immunity equals impunity. Being party to the statute is not by force,” he argued.
In the presentation that also touched on a brief background to what has come to be known as the Malabo protocol which is the proposed African Court of Justice and human rights with criminal jurisdiction he said it is clear that Africa needs such instrument and this is why they were the driving force behind ICC formation.
“I believe the need to have the African Court with criminal jurisdiction may not necessarily be a new idea as empirical evidence supports the view that Africa was pregnant of application of international criminal law on its continent in order to fight against serious crimes of international concern and impunity as regulated by international law which had partly characterised its history with the notable cases relating to the Rwanda Genocide –Hutu and Tsutsi,” he said.
Mtambo told the gathering that it is therefore no wonder that African states played a crucial role in the preparations leading up to, during and after the diplomatic conference in Rome at which the Rome Statute of the ICC was finalised.
“For instance, 14 nations of Sadc had been very active in ICC-related negotiations at the time the International Law Commission presented a draft statute for an international criminal court to the General Assembly in 1993,” he said.
He added that experts from the group met in Pretoria, South Africa in September 1997 to discuss their negotiation strategies and to agree on a common position in order to make a meaningful impact on the outcome of the negotiations.
“This meeting provided for a continent-wide consultation process on the creation of the court,” he said adding that on the basis of the principles submitted to them, Sadc Ministers of Justice and Attorney-Generals issued a common statement that became a primary basis for the Sadc’s negotiations at Rome.
“These principles,” he said “also appeared in the Dakar declaration on the ICC and other declarations.”
Mtambo also said at a meeting on 27th February 1998, the council of ministers of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which is now African Union, took note of the Dakar declaration and called on all OAU member states to support the creation of the ICC.
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