ICC is losing relevance, global legal experts say

Oliver Musembi @PeopleDailyKe

The relevance and effectiveness of the International Criminal Court has come under criticism of global legal experts as it marks 20 years of existence.

An international conference on the Rome Statute held at Kenyatta University yesterday expressed concerns over the effectiveness, legitimacy and ability of the court to deal with cases of atrocity, among other accusations.

The two-day event brings together regional and international stakeholders in academia, civil society organisations and other entities, two decades since the Rome Statute which established the ICC.

Kenya’s Solicitor General Kennedy Ogeto, who opened the conference on behalf of the Attorney General, said it was time the Member States came up with ways of making the court relevant amid claims of bias and failure to serve justice.

“The criticism and attacks on the ICC are a reflection of the impact of the court in promoting international rule of law and its ability to deliver on its mandate which has been seen to be wanting,” said Ogeto, who is also former defence counsel in the Kenyan case involving President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto.

He said the ICC is likely to be on its deathbed unless measures are taken to redeem it, adding that the court is plagued with questions of credibility and legitimacy.

“The ICC has been accused of being biased against Africa and as a result, many African countries have threatened to withdraw membership. There have been only three convictions over the last 20 years, all from Africa and two acquittals,” the solicitor general said.

He said the majority of the court’s cases ended up without conviction resulting from poor investigations and insufficient evidence and hence the need for reforms. 

Ogeto said African countries need to build capacity of their judicial systems to enable them to deal with crimes saying it is easier for local prosecutors to investigate cases rather than foreigners.

He also proposed that the international court should not just deal with suspects with highest responsibility but also low level perpetrators as a deterrent to serious international crimes including terrorism.

KU Vice-Chancellor Prof Paul Wainaina said the conference provides the world a rare chance to improve the operations of the ICC.

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