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Malawi govt cautioned on ICC withdrawal

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The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and a renowned legal expert, Edge Kanyongolo, have advised government to follow the country’s interests and avoid being used in the process of making any decision with regard to Malawi’s membership to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

During the recent African Union (AU) Summit in Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, member states adopted Kenya president Uhuru Kenyatta’s proposal for the AU members to develop a roadmap for withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the ICC.

Many African leaders accuse the ICC of only investigating alleged war crimes in Africa and ignoring those committed elsewhere. Kenyatta said he was disappointed by the way cases brought before the ICC were handled.

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“We refuse to be carried along in a vehicle that has strayed off-course to the detriment of our sovereignty, security and dignity of Africans.

“In the face of a mutating global terrorist threat that is costing us lives and great economic loss, in the midst of playing our part in mediating multiple peace processes in our region, we have had to contend with an ICC pursuing weak and politicised cases…,” Kenyatta said.

But on Tuesday, Kanyongolo said Malawi, as one of the African pioneer signatories to the Rome statute, had her own reasons for ratifying and it would be strange to just pull out because leaders of other countries are saying so.

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“I don’t think they have sufficient reasons why countries should withdraw from ICC. Quite often the cited reason is that the court targets African leaders. But they ignore the fact that those complaints are lodged by Africans themselves. I don’t think they have reasons to convince us that things have changed since the time we joined ICC.

“We should be guided by our national interests. We should not be used by other countries or politicians from other countries for their own interests,” Kanyongolo said.

He said, for as long as domestic institutions of African countries remain weak, ICC remains the best substitute.

“If we had very strong African institutions to bring to book violators of human rights, people who commit war crimes and other atrocities then I would say we don’t need such a court. So, until we have strong institutions, somebody has to be able to be accountable for the thousands of Africans who suffer at the hands of dictators,” he said.

CHRR Executive Director, Timothy Mtambo, also said the argument that Africans are targeted is just a mere propaganda as records show that out of nine cases against Africans, seven are referrals by Africans who noticed weaknesses in their legal system.

“So, if seven out of nine cases were referred by African themselves, how can you argue that Africans are targeted?” Mtambo queried.

He said the signing of the Rome statute of the ICC was the choice of individual countries and it would be pointless for some countries and leaders to use African Union in the process of advancing their own agenda.

“Sometimes people bring in United States. They say, why not America [punishing American leaders]. But the thing is; America is not a signatory to the ICC. So, there is no need for the countries that ratified to push in other countries that are not signatories to the statute,” he said.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, George Chaponda, who led Malawi delegation to the AU Summit, said there will be a press briefing on what transpired during the summit.

At least 123 are signatories to the Rome Statute of the ICC and out of them 34 are African states. AU has 54 countries, which means 20 of its member states are not ICC members.

Some of the Africans to have been indicted in the ICC include Kenyatta himself (charges withdrawn) and his deputy William Ruto (answering charges).

They were indicted in March 2011 on five counts of crimes against humanity with regard to the political situation in Kenya.

Others are late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi (proceedings terminated), Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir(fugitive), former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo (answering charges) and Joseph Kony (fugitive).

In October 2011, Malawi came under fire for hosting but not arresting Bashir in defiance of an ICC arrest warrant for his Darfur genocide charges.

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