Former UN chief Kofi Annan has challenged African leaders over the position and existence of the International Criminal Court, ICC; an institution the latter have dismissed as a fixated machination by the west.
His comment came ahead of today’s meeting, the 13th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of African Union in Sirte, Libya, to discuss inter alia the ‘unorthodox indictment of Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir at the ICC.’
Observers say President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, who is also in Libya for the meeting, has never made any public statement on recent actions of the embattled court.
Meanwhile, for the first time, Mr Annan, one of the continent’s diplomatic heavyweights, argued that: “The ICC represents hope for victims of atrocities and sends a message that no one is above the law. That hope and message will be undermined if the African Union condemns the Court because it has charged an African head of state.”
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has already set the tone by asking African leaders to consider withdrawing their membership from the International Criminal Court for what he said was “warped justice in favour of Europe.”
However, getting the African leaders understand and appreciate the relevance of justice in world peace would seem a very tough challenge. But the former UN chief, whose promise of justice and its potential as a deterrent came closer to reality over the course of his ten years as UN Secretary-General, think the African Union should not abandon its promise to fight impunity.
He noted that unless indicted war criminals are held to account, regardless of their rank, others tempted to emulate them would not be deterred.
“It’s also important to remember that the ICC, as a court of last resort, acts only when national justice systems are unwilling or unable to do so. There will be less need for it to protect African victims only when African governments themselves improve their record of bringing to justice those responsible for mass atrocities.
“Do these leaders really want to side with the alleged perpetrators of mass atrocities rather than their victims? Is the court’s failure to date to answer the calls of victims outside of Africa really a reason to leave the calls of African victims unheeded? In my view, this outcry against justice demeans the yearning for human dignity that resides in every African heart. It also represents a step backward in the battle against impunity.”