ICC prosecutor: African states leaving court is 'regression'

2016-11-23 06:10
Fatou Bensouda (File: AFP)

Fatou Bensouda (File: AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

The Hague - The International Criminal Court's prosecutor said Tuesday that it is a "regression" for African nations — including her home country of Gambia — to quit the court and said the continent should work with her office to end impunity for atrocities.

Speaking to The Associated Press at the court's headquarters overlooking the North Sea on the edge of The Hague, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said regional and local courts in Africa can also play a key role in bringing perpetrators of atrocities to justice.

Bensouda's comments came as the court's governing body, the Assembly of States Parties, met nearby with the issue of departing African states figuring prominently in its discussions.

South Africa, Burundi and Gambia have announced plans to leave the court, which has 124 member states, sparking fears of a domino effect among other African nations.

"I think it's a setback for the continent, it's a regression for the continent that there are some African states that are deciding to withdraw from the ICC," Bensouda said.

Local and regional courts 

However, she said that the announced withdrawals have galvanised support for the court among other African countries attending the annual gathering of member states.

"I wanted to emphasise that today during this Assembly of States Parties you have the vast majority of African states recommitting to the ICC and renewing ... support for the ICC," Bensouda said.

One way of the international court engaging with Africa is by supporting local and regional courts, Bensouda said. Her office is working with authorities in Central African Republic to help establish a court to prosecute atrocities in that conflict-torn country.

"What we should also remember is that the ICC was not meant to take each and every case," Bensouda said. "So there must be national efforts, there must be regional efforts that are also trying to bridge the impunity gap."

She said the ICC would continue to go after those considered most responsible for atrocities, while local and regional courts could bring others to justice. "That way we can complement each other."

Human rights lawyer Reed Brody, who worked for years to have former Chadian dictator Hissen Habre prosecuted, agrees.

"It's possible, and desirable, if these trials could be held in Africa, everyone would be happier," he said in a recent interview. "The ICC is a court of last resort, and it only steps in when the justice mechanisms at home are absent or unable to take on cases."

Crimes against humanity 

In May, in an example of an African-based court prosecuting a former leader, the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal found Habre guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and sex crimes committed during his presidency from 1982-1990.

Addressing another issue being discussed at the Assembly of States Parties, Bensouda said she hopes member states will support the court's proposed 2017 budget of just over 147 million euros ($156 million), a 7 percent increase over the 2016 budget. Activists say some member states are pushing for the court to adopt a budget at the same level as this year, with no increase for inflation.

Bensouda said she wants to expand the number of investigations her office carries out, but needs sufficient funds.

"If I'm not able to get that budget approved, it would mean I have to study again my case docket and perhaps prioritise what I need to do and what has to wait," she said.

Bensouda said last week that she is close to deciding whether to open a full-scale investigation in Afghanistan — which could target alleged crimes by US forces and CIA agents, as well as by the Taliban and Afghan forces. On Tuesday, she said the decision would be made "in due course".

Asked if she was concerned that Donald Trump's election as the next US president would affect the probe, she said: "We reach out to those we think should co-operate with us for us to be able to do out work and this is exactly what the office will continue to do irrespective of which dossier, irrespective of which government is in place."


Read more on:    international criminal court  |  gambia  |  the hague  |  west africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.