Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has weighed in on the ongoing debate about the relevance of the the International Criminal Court (ICC), after withdrawals from the institution by three African countries.
Annan said Africa needs the Court more than ever “because the most heinous crimes must not go unpunished”. Writing in an article which appeared in the Guardian, Annan said withdrawals from the Court need to be prevented, and the most heinous crimes will be allowed to go unpunished if more countries continue to quit the ICC.
Asserting his support for the ICC, Annan wrote, “the people of Africa, and particularly the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and members of those communities affected by genocide, stand by the ICC”.
“Most of the continent’s democratic governments stand by the ICC. I stand by the ICC, because the most heinous crimes must not go unpunished,” Annan said.
— Kofi Annan (@KofiAnnan) November 18, 2016
The former UN Secretary General has previously argued that the ICC is not biased against African countries, and victims of heinous crimes, and others who cannot get justice in their domestic courts should have a provision to seek it abroad.
In his recent statement, Annan said the ICC does not target Africans, considering that “of the nine investigations on the African continent, eight were requested by African states, six African states referred their own situation to the ICC, and African states voted in support of the UN security council referrals on Darfur and Libya”.
“Kenya was the only case in Africa opened independently by the court,” Annan.
Acknowledging the need to reform the ICC, and to support an African court, which is capable of presiding over human rights issues, Annan noted that “For the time being, the ICC remains the continent’s most credible court of last resort for the most serious crimes” until African countries ratify the protocol to the African Charter on Human Rights.
A number of African countries reaffirmed their support for the ICC in the past few weeks following withdrawals by South Africa, Burundi, and Gambia. The countries include Botswana, Tanzania, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso, Lesotho, and Uganda.
While there are many Africans who feel that the ICC does indeed target African countries, there are numerous voices across the continent supporting Annan’s comments. There is still a strong belief amongst African citizens that the Court is relevant, and it is an essential institution that should be supported against the backdrop of impunity, and weak domestic judicial mechanisms.