African States Should Not Withdraw From The International Criminal Court – Debater

Mr. Mohammed Abubakar Shayaw

Mr. Mohammed Abubakar Shayaw

A leading debater at the first international law reporting workshop in Ghana has urged African states not to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Mr. Mohammed Abubakar Shayaw, who led the call against withdrawing from the ICC, said that it is victims and their families who will suffer injustice and not the perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

“We must determine whose best interest will be served by withdrawing from the ICC…Victims are definitely not the ones whose interest will be served by withdrawing; it is perpetrators of international crimes who stand to benefit should African states withdraw from the ICC’s jurisdiction”, he added.

Several African countries, citing alleged targeting of African states by the ICC, have been threatening to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the ICC with South Africa being the latest country to voice such concerns and has threatened to withdraw from the ICC. No country has as yet withdrawn from the ICC.

On the issue of perceived targeting of Africa by the ICC, Mr. Shayaw said that the perception is not supported by the facts, arguing that international crimes are frequently being committed in Africa; African states had failed to prosecute perpetrators of international crimes, and that African states had referred majority of the cases to the ICC.

“The ICC is an international court of last resort and only comes in when a state is unable or unwilling to prosecute a citizen who has committed an international crime; therefore there will be no need for the ICC to step in if we prosecute our own”, he said.

Mr. Shayaw, a student journalist at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) was speaking on the motion “Should African states withdraw from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC)?”

More than 180 participants from GIJ and other tertiary institutions, including the University of Professional Studies, University of Cape Coast, Jayee University College, and Cedis College attended the workshop on Tuesday, this week. The workshop was facilitated by the US-based Africa Center for International Law and Accountability (ACILA) in collaboration with the Faculty of Journalism of the Ghana Institute of Journalism. ACILA is incorporated under US law as a 501(c) (3) research and education think tank which aims to contribute to African scholarship through enhanced understanding of international law.

Mr. William Nyarko, Executive Director of ACILA who facilitated the workshop, trained participants on international criminal justice, international human rights law, and international dispute settlement. Other resource persons included, Ms. Kate Addo, Deputy Public Affairs officer in Parliament, Mrs. Mabel Aku Baneseh, 2014 Journalist of the Year, and Mr. Raymond Archer, international investigator and Chief Executive Officer of Color Planet Limited.

Expressing a position contrary to Mr. Shayaw’s, Mr. Rockson Sackey, principal debater who called for the withdrawal of African states from the jurisdiction of the ICC said that ICC’s targeting of African states is not a perception, it reflects the reality, adding that such targeting renders the ICC an “International Colonial Court”, not the International Criminal Court that it purports to be.

According to Mr. Sackey, the fact that all the cases that the ICC had so far addressed involved Africans while other non-African leaders, including President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, who had allegedly committed international crimes had not been brought before the ICC, provided ample proof that the ICC had been targeting Africans.

During discussions, it was explained that three members of the UN Security Council, including US, Russia, and China had not ratified the Rome Statute which established the ICC and that in the case of President Bush, it is only the UN Security Council, which the US is a member, that can refer Mr. Bush to the ICC. The US is likely to veto a referral.

A section of participants at the International Law Reporting Workshop

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