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International Criminal Court: On the Defensive over Heavy Involvement in Africa

(July 6, 2011) As it prepares to launch yet another investigation into the recent conflict in Cote d’Ivoire, the International Criminal Court (ICC) finds itself on the defensive and having to fend off criticism that it is excessively and unfairly targeting Africans. (Tim Cocks, ICC Says Protecting Africans, Not Targeting Them, REUTERS (June 30, 2011; About the Court, ICC website (last visited June 30, 2011).) Among the ardent critics is Jean Ping, African Union (AU) President, who in January 2011 accused the ICC’s Chief Prosecutor of holding double standards. (Richard Lough, African Union Accuses ICC Prosecutor of Bias, REUTERS (Jan. 30, 2011); AU in a Nutshell, AU website (last visited June 30, 2011).)

Fresh from signing a cooperation accord with the Cote d’Ivoire government that is expected to pave the way for ICC investigations into the recent conflict in the country, Fatou Bensouda, ICC Deputy Prosecutor, insisted that the criticism that the ICC is unfairly targeting Africans is unfounded. (Cocks, supra.) Bensouda noted that there are good reasons for the ICC’s heavy involvement in Africa. Chief among them is the fact of African governments’ cooperation with the ICC. (Id.) In addition, she argued that the ICC cannot be accused of targeting Africans because the victims of crimes that the ICC is prosecuting are also Africans. (Id.)

Currently, the ICC is involved in six African countries. It is prosecuting four Ugandans (ICC-02/04 Situation in Ugandaand several citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (ICC-01/04 Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the basis of referrals made by the governments of Uganda, the DRC, and the Central African Republic for crimes committed in their territory. (Situations and Cases.)

The ICC is also prosecuting four Sudanese citizens (including Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir, sitting President of Sudan) in connection with crimes committed in the Darfur region of Sudan (ICC-02/05 Situation in Darfur, Sudan). In addition, it has recently issued arrest warrants for three Libyan citizens, including Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, sitting President of Libya, in connection with the ongoing conflict in that country. (ICC-01/11 Situation in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya; Colum Lynch, International Court Issues Gaddafi Arrest Warrant, THE WASHINGTON POST (June 27, 2011).) Both of these cases were referred to the ICC by the United Nations Security Council. (Situations and Cases, supra.) In addition, the ICC has summoned five Kenyans in connection with the 2007 post-election violence in Kenya, the only case involving an African nation that the ICC has initiated on it own accord. (Cocks, supra.)

The Rome Statute, a multinational treaty that governs the ICC, was adopted on July 17, 1998, and entered into force on July 1, 2002. (Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, ICC website (last visited June 30, 2011).) Thirty-one African states are states parties to the Rome Statute. (The States Parties to the Rome Statute: African States, ICC website (last visited June 30, 2011).)