From Lloyd Gumbo in KIGALI, Rwanda
Africa must vigorously resist attempts by Western countries to amend the Rome Statute that will allow peacekeepers to arrest people indicted by the International Criminal Court as this is targeted at African leaders, an organ of the African Union has recommended.
The Economic, Social and Cultural Council of the African Union (ECOSOCC), which is a coalition of civil society in Africa said the international justice system was skewed against the African continent.
The position by the ECOSOCC dovetails with President Mugabe’s calls over the years for Africa to move out of the ICC since it only targeted African leaders.
ECOSSOC presiding officer, Dr Joseph Chilengi told the media here that Africa had given Western countries a deadline to respond to the position of Africa on the ICC, failure of which the continent would pull out en masse.
He said some of the allegations targeting African leaders among them Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir were fabricated and aimed at settling political rather than judicial scores.
“There is now an attempt and Africa rejects that, to amend the Rome Statute so that the UN blue barrette (peacekeepers) must have the power to arrest our leaders when they are wanted by the ICC,” said Chilengi.
“Where is the sovereignty of our States? Understand Africa very well, we mean well for the continent, we mean well for this global community and we mean well in our actions to perpetuate special justice system in the region.”
Dr Chilengi said Africa would rather exit from the ICC than be subjected to unfair treatment by the West including countries that were non-members of the organ.
He said Africa had an exit strategy in place to ensure there is a working justice system in the continent.
“Our number one strategy is to have a regional court that has power to try international crimes so that any dissatisfaction at regional court then the ICC becomes an appellant court.
“Further, there are countries now whose courts have mechanisms to try international crimes. So if there is dissatisfaction at national level, then the regional court becomes an appellant court if not satisfied then the ICC becomes the last court. A perfect justice system is what we are looking for and that is what we stand for,” he said.
Dr Chilengi said the previous summit of the Heads of State and Government appointed an inter-ministerial committee to lobby for African position on the ICC the world over.
He said the continent would not backtrack on its demands that the committee is advising the world.
“They have been moving all over the world consulting and putting Africa’s position on how to strengthen the international justice system including the UN Security Council.
“We are giving time-limit and if we don’t get feedback, then we act on our own. One of the strategies is to withdraw but that is delegated to the sovereignty of the member states. There is a general agreement that we pull out but states using their sovereignty can begin their national action to withdraw.
“Our alternative is that we have the protocol to expand the powers of the jurisdiction of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights to include international crimes. Ratifications have began, our system requires the minimum of 15 states for it to take effect. That in itself provides an alternative avenue for Africa.
“Our argument is ‘uphold the universality of the ICC, then we are game, lets us not begin to introduce political provisions within the Rome Statutes, then we are game.
“The danger is that if there is an amendment to the Rome Statutes that the blue barrettes (peacekeepers) begin to arrest our leaders then the blue barrettes will not also be allowed in member states.
“My country, for example, cannot allow the blue barrettes because we don’t know their second agenda they are coming to do. The power to arrest within a State is a sovereignty of those States with its institutions. Unless they go first and arrest George Bush now, then we know that they are serious. But we know what their intentions are. They are targeting certain people,” said Dr Chilengi.
He said some countries were abusing the UN Security Council system to push their agendas that would not pass at the UN General Assembly.
Dr Chilengi said there were a lot of double standards by the West.
“How can the Security Council made up of America not a member and state party to the ICC, Russia not a member and state party to the ICC and all other countries who are not members be given prosecutorial right to refer a Head of State to the ICC?
“What kind of international justice system is that? This international justice system is constipated with a lot of nonsense that the consequences will come back to haunt us again,” he said.
Dr Chilengi said Africa must be left to pave its ways of addressing domestic problems without interference from the West.
He said the West were also opposed to attempts by the continent to stop aggression that has seen many developing countries destroyed by the West.