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“It’s a sad misconception that ICC is against Africa”

…says CARL’s Executive Director

August 4, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai

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Executive Director at the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Ibrahim Tommy, has observed that Africans are making a very sad misconception that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is against the continent and its leaders.

Mr. Tommy was speaking yesterday at Ramsey House on Liverpool Street in Freetown during a one-day seminar organised by Center for Media Literacy and Human Rights in Liberia in Collaboration with CARL Sierra Leone.

Speaking on the theme ‘Enhancing Access to Regional and International Justice Mechanisms,’ with specific reference to the ECOWAS Court, African Court for Justice and Human Rights and the ICC, CARL’s Executive Director opined that justice may not have been applied evenly across the ICC, but the Court was jurisdiction only over member states that are signatories to the Rome Treaty.

“The ICC is against warlords and not African leaders. These warlords are perpetrating lots of violations on their victims, who most times do not have a voice in governance. The fact is, when national institutions fail to work, we always find fault in those that work,” he said.

He said CARL-SL’s mandate is to promote human rights through accountability, noting that the object of the seminar was to deepen citizens’ knowledge about the rule of law.

“At the ICC, ECOWAS and African Courts, you would find few Sierra Leoneans there. We should not only take cases there but we should also push ourselves to work in those institutions,” he urged.

Ezekiel Pajibo from Liberian Law Society, who was the lead facilitator for the seminar, observed that Sierra Leone and Liberia are underrepresented in the three Courts under consideration, noting that it would significant for citizens from both countries to work at the ICC and contribute to the process.

“Many people thought the ICC is unfair to Africans but I don’t believe so. Among the many crimes in the world the ICC only deals with four, which include crime of aggression, crime against humanity, war crimes and crime of genocide,” he noted.

He explained that the ECOWAS Court has seven independent judges that serve for four-year-term and that they are appointed by heads of government of member states.

Mr. Pajibo said the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, which commenced operation in 2006 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, has eleven (11) judges.

Also present at the seminar was Commissioner Rashid Dumbuya Esq., from the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone. He described the ICC as a complementary institution to courts in Africa, but not replacing them.

He debunked claims that the ICC is against African leaders, stating that since its inception the court has only dealt with eight cases from Africa and five of those cases were referred to the court by African leaders.

“Africa needs more scrutiny and oversight by the ICC. There are lots of cases of human rights violations, corruption, and many other crimes in Africa. The institution is important because there is no mechanism in Africa that guarantees criminal individual responsibilities, and the ICC would not hunt any leader that rules perfectly,” he said.

He said the United States of America is not a party to the ICC because the country has a very strong human rights and legal systems, adding that leaders from European countries have been sparsely indicted because of similar state of affairs, unlike Africa.

Commissioner Dumbuya warned that if African states withdrew from the ICC en masse their leaders would have a field day, adding that the continent needs a justice system that checkmates the excesses of leaders.