By Paul Ndiho
June 8, 2010
Representatives from over 100 member states that are signatory to the International Criminal Court, or ICC, gathered in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, to discuss the court’s future, and propose changes to its founding treaty, the Rome Statute. The Ugandan parliament recently passed an ICC bill, making it one of only a handful of African countries to have ratified the Rome statute.
Over a decade ago, world leaders gathered in Rome to establish the International Criminal Court. The court investigates and tries cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the court needs universal support:
“For the International Criminal Court, we have reached the need to progress. We need to have universal membership for the ICC, therefore I add again, for those countries who have not signed yet, you should ratify the ICC as soon as possible.”
The ICC has focused on African conflicts. ICC prosecutor Louis Moreno Ocampo says his mission is to end impunity in Africa.
“There were millions of victims in Africa, and they were ignored, there were other priorities. The world ignored, and did nothing to stop the genocide in Rwanda. The world ignored the Congo war, 4 million people died. The world let Somalia go to chaos, and that was a problem. I would not have brought this experience in my court, that’s why we are caring about the victims in Darfur, in Congo, in Uganda, in central Africa Republic, and now in Kenya. We will do justice for them.”
In Uganda, the Court has four outstanding arrest warrants for top-level members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), including its leader Joseph Kony. Ocampo says special forces need to be deployed to capture the rebels.
“The problem is that Joseph Kony is a run-away militia, so I don ‘t think arresting is a police operation’s required, it’s a special force operation, and Congo was not able to do it in those moments. So I hope that we can galvanize efforts to implement a special force to arrest Joseph Kony in the near future.”
In 2006, Thomas Lubanga was surrendered to the court by the Congolese government. His trial has been delayed because the prosecution had withheld evidence from the defense. Jean-Pierre Bemba and two other Congo rebel leaders are also being scrutinized by the ICC, as is former Liberian President Charles Taylor and Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International criticizes major powers such as China, Russia and the U.S., for refusing to participate in the International Criminal Court.
“Powerful governments, despite their rhetoric – they often speak about the importance of human rights and fighting impunity – and when it comes to the crunch then they actually apply double standards.”
Delegates at the Kampala conference are discussing proposals giving the International Criminal Court powers to probe state aggression, as determined by the United Nations Security Council.