Africa and the ICC: Evelyn Ankumah opening address

The Evolving Regime of International Criminal Justice: African Perspectives

Evelyn A. Ankumah, Executive Director Africa Legal Aid (AFLA)

Africa Legal Aid Conference on AFRICA AND THE ICC: TEN YEARS ON

Arusha, Tanzania, 28 February – 1 March 2013


Distinguished Participants, Friends and Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am glad that you have come in such great numbers to this Conference. On behalf of Africa Legal Aid, I wish to thank you for your willingness to take the time and to join us in fruitful discussions on the past, present and future of the ICC, and its significance for Africa in particular.

The ICC is only ten years old, but it has already quite a history. It has developed from a court that first only existed on Treaty paper into a tribunal that employs close to a thousand people and is supported by 122 State parties. It has received Article 15 communications about violations of international crimes from close to 140 countries, is investigating about 18 cases in 8 countries, has issued 23 Arrest warrants and 9 summonses to appear, and as at March has 5 people in custody[1], has initiated a series of trials; and last year reached the first guilty verdict in the Lubanga case.

The first ten years have certainly not been uncontroversial. There has been much critique. The ICC has had its shortcomings. Yet, let’s not forget: its mere existence has already added value. While hard to measure in concrete terms, it seems undeniable that the mere threat of being prosecuted before the Court has a deterrent effect on the commission of crimes.

Today and tomorrow we will analyse the work of the ICC and its partners so far. Of course, we do not do so just for the sake of it or because we love history so much. We look at the last ten years with a view to exploring what can be learned from the experiences so far and how the ICC, and more generally international criminal justice, can carry forward in the next ten or more years.

Our main focus will be on Africa. As we all know, the ICC’s work so far has largely focused on our beloved continent. Some criticize this: Africa is a selected target of the ICC. Others welcome this: the ICC contributes to justice on a continent that has faced and still faces too many forms of injustice. We will of course return to this political debate today and tomorrow, but the goal is not to limit ourselves to this issue. I do not have a glass bowl that enables me to predict the future. Yet, it is fair to assume that in the next ten years the ICC will also start trials in non-African cases. The critique of Africa being the sole target of selective justice is likely to decrease in size or intensity.

At the same time, it is fair to assume that the ICC will continue to work on African cases, and the question is thus pertinent what Africa expects or wants from the ICC. The general answer is: justice. But in more concrete terms, what should be done to ensure that justice is done and is perceived by Africans to be done? We will address today and tomorrow some concrete legal issues, even though in the world of international criminal justice legal issues often are also political in nature.

We will take a closer look at the group that international criminal justice is also, if not mainly, meant for: the victims. What role should they play in terms of participation? What can we do to compensate the injustice done them? We take a close look at a group of victims that is always disproportionally affected by crimes: women, and perhaps also children. What strategy should the ICC pursue on gender justice, what can it learn from other courts, and the ICTR in particular? We will also look at criminal procedure, including the debates on equality of arms. The political pressure for convictions is often great. This is not strange given the heinousness of the crimes involved. Yet, criminal justice also includes the rights of the accused and the defence. How do we ensure that these are respected?

In addition, there is need to continue the debate on the relationship between the ICC and national criminal law systems. On the one hand, the ICC does not have to do all the work. It has only a complementary role to play vis-à-vis national systems and it is of the utmost importance to properly demarcate responsibilities. On the other hand, where the ICC is carrying its responsibilities it is in need of the support, assistance and cooperation of State parties. That cooperation is key to the ICC’s success and we simply have to explore how it can be more efficient and smooth.

Ladies and gentlemen, our agenda is full. It is full of issues that we have to tackle if we wish to make progress. Given the expertise present here today and tomorrow, I am confident that we will have fruitful discussions that will contribute to the best strategies to be adopted and followed and will bring us nearer what we all want to achieve: justice.

I thank you for your consideration.

[1] Three weeks after the conference in Arusha, Bosco Ntaganda surrendered himself to the ICC

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