November 24, 2016 By Mohamed Massaquoi in The Hague
Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the European Union has assured States Parties to the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court (ICC) that, his country remains committed to the court, in the wake of withdrawals by three states from Africa.
Ambassador Ibrahim Sorie made the pronouncement at the plenary session of the 15th Assembly of States Parties Session for 2016, where he assured delegates that the Government of Sierra Leone would not renege on its responsibility in ensuring that the ICC continues to provide effective and efficient justice delivery system in the world.
He added that Sierra Leone had experienced the bitterness of war and that such behooves the country to work with other states parties for the maintenance of peace and justice for all.
Ambassador Sorie further stated that the issue of grave crimes and grand corruption must be seriously looked into in the dispensation of justice by the ICC, adding that grand corruption and grave crimes commonly go hand-in-glove.
“There are many apparent links in the perpetration [of crimes against humanity and corruption] and the lack of accountability for these crimes is also mutually entwined and attempts at accountability face many common challenges. Corruption and connected grave crimes were clearly seen in the Sierra Leone conflict. The existence of corruption in any country will lead to conflict, thus leading to the death of people and the destruction of properties. Sierra Leone experienced a civil war in 1990 and many people knew that grand corruption was a serious issue in our own case,” said Amb. Sorie.
He added: “I am sure all of you heard about blood diamonds and other resources that contributed to fueling the war in our country. This is the reason I am pleased to announce that my country is committed to the ICC and we will continue to support the process. I also want to call on our international partners to investigate those who will fund conflict.”
Meanwhile, the recent decision by South Africa, Burundi, and Gambia to leave the ICC hass generated attention and speculation about a mass exodus from the court by African countries. A growing number of African governments have spoken out on the issue and it is reported that President of Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, said in a local radio interview on 1st November, 2016 that his country has no intent to leave the ICC.
Nigeria gave a strong statement in support of the ICC to the United Nations General Assembly on 31st October, 2016 that they were committed to supporting and cooperating with the court. Also, at the UN General Assembly on the same day, Senegal invited all State Parties to prove assistance for and cooperate with the court.
Malawi Foreign Minister, Francis Kasaila, said on 28th October, 2016 that they would not be pressured to leave the ICC by their neighbours.
Tanzania said in a statement to the UN General Assembly on 31 October that the establishment of the ICC “became an inspiration against impunity and injustice. The promise and hope is still relevant today, if not more urgent.”
Zambia’s Vice President, Inonge Wina, told Zambia’s parliament on 28th October 2016 that the status of Zambia’s membership in the ICC hasn’t changed.
Botswana issued a detailed statement in support of the ICC on 25th October, with Foreign Minister Pelomoni Venson-Moitoi adding on 26th October that pulling out of the ICC would not be a solution.
High-level African personalities and African activists have also made a call for African countries to remain with the ICC, while urging those who have threatened to withdraw to reconsider their decision.
The African Group for Justice and Accountability—which includes former Central African Republic President, Catherine Samba-Panza, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and former South African Constitutional Court Justice, Richard Goldstone—called on all states considering withdrawal to reconsider and recommit themselves to the Rome Statute of the ICC.
Twenty-four African and international organisations issued a statement on 22nd October, 2016 calling South Africa’s withdrawal “a slap in the face for victims,” and urging countries that believe in the rights of victims to affirm their support for the ICC.
The Global Coalition for the ICC also issued a statement on 21st October, featuring South African advocates that strongly opposed to the withdrawal. A global civil society statement endorsed by African groups from at least 16 countries on 27th October stated that “withdrawal poses a threat to one of the greatest advances in justice of the 21st century.”
African civil society organisations, including the International Commission of Jurists–Kenya, Mali Coalition for the ICC, and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre issued individual statements opposing withdrawal.