Necessity of ICC reforms: Time to act is now


There has been growing concern about the appropriateness of Nigeria and other African countries maintaining their affinity with the International Criminal Court, which sits in The Hague, The Netherlands.
The concern by member-countries of the ICC is a follow-up to the evaluation of the pros and cons of an international organisation that appears to be losing its relevance, a development which has enjoyed good publicity across the globe.
The fact remains that the ICC, as a body, has not only been misconstrued, but has, as well, been negatively understood by critics, who want only a speedy change and a shared responsibility with a view to getting desired results.
However, the responsibility for a desirable change rests with member countries and those who have, all the while, stood aloof.
Some member states of the ICC have continually canvassed reasons for their readiness to opt out, through the mechanisms available to ICC members. One of such openings is the Assembly of States Parties and the Rome Statute.
Of course, there is no gainsaying the fact that the 15th Session of the Assembly of States Parties is underway in The Hague, considering the fact that the past nine weeks have been stormy for the ICC, and particularly its relationship with Africa.
The development was actually spurred by Russia, which picked holes in the running of the administrative structure of the international organisation.
Little wonder, South Africa, the Gambia and Burundi recently submitted notices to withdraw from the ICC; just as other African countries indicated similar intentions.
But it is noteworthy that transnational problems such as the migration crisis have repeatedly shown that insular diplomatic thinking by the member states can only, in the long run, be counter-productive.
Pent-up grievances, when ignored, could have monumental repercussion tomorrow, unless such grievances are contained by the parties involved.
At this point in time, “to ignore global concerns with the ICC is to undermine both the present and the future of the international criminal justice project as a whole,” says Allan Ngari, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies.

Inasmuch as there can never be an ideal world, the need for an ICC would always be desirable, to redress injustices arising from disputes and impunity and to hinder many heads of states from taking laws into their hands

Uba Group

As at today, there are 34 African member states, which are parties to the Rome Statute; thereby making it the largest geographic bloc among member countries. Indeed, the recent concerns have to do with sitting heads of state, a development that is wholly exacerbated by the unequal approach to international justice at the global level.
Those who are well grounded in international cooperation of this nature are impatient, especially with the galloping geo-political configuration of the international community of states. Frankly speaking, the tiny thread that holds the United Nations Security Council and the ICC has continually complicated the responsibilities of the court.
It is now a matter of conjecture for any of the five UN permanent members to, at whims and caprices, stop a conflict from being investigated by the ICC.
A case in point is that of Syria, when both China and Russia voted against referring the situation to the ICC.
And in the eyes of the law, this is nothing but a selective justice in motion.
As a way forward, we are of the opinion that the root cause of the anger, which is snowballing, must be wholly addressed now, otherwise, the hydra-headed monster will continue to ride roughshod over international criminal justice, even beyond the ICC as a world body.
There is no other time for the UN Security Council to carry out a reform other than now. The universal roles of the ICC are at stake and the onus rests on the UN to take a decisive decision.
Again, there are other ways to address the seemingly intractable concerns, and in the process – strengthen the ICC. One of the best options at reforming the ICC is from the inside out, by making use of the mechanisms enshrined in the Rome Statute.
Article 119 (2) allows for disputes relating to the Rome Statute to be settled between states, while according to Article 121, any state party may propose amendments to the Rome Statute.
Such proposals may result in a review conference, where a two-thirds majority vote could see a proposal adopted.
The overall approach to the issue would be to engage in constructive dialogue with other member states, in the belief that other states’ parties too, must take the court very seriously, by simply acknowledging the risks of not doing so.
It should also be noted that it is not easy for international criminal justice to scale through the desirable trajectory as a result of the legal complexities involved.
Therefore, there should always be a political will on the part of the parties involved, without any legal improbabilities, to achieve the desirable goals.
Inasmuch as there can never be an ideal world, the need for an ICC would always be desirable, to redress injustices arising from disputes and impunity and to hinder many heads of states from taking laws into their hands.