Source: / Jerry John Akornor, Ghana

The long existing claim and debate that International Criminal Court (ICC) unfairly targets Africans continuous to gain grounds after the Gambia became the third country on the continent to reveal its withdrawal from the Hague-based tribunal.

The decision follows exit plan by Burundi and South Africa, informing the then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon of their resort to quit. Although the current President of the Gambia H.E Adama Barrow cancelled attempts by his predecessor Yahya Jammeh to quit the ICC, the complaints remain that the ICC arrest warrants have more often than not been issued for Africans. Many have argued that the ICC’s target of Africa is part of the colonial project to legally nail African leaders. Hitherto it was slavery.

On the contrary, International Cooperation Adviser of International Criminal Court (ICC), Dahirou Sant-Anna has debunked the widely held view that the ICC has the ulterior motive of prosecuting African presidents as compared to that of other continents. According to him, although the fact sheet shows that the ICC has been prosecuting many African leaders as compared to that of other nations, majority of such cases were referred to the Hague-based tribunal as a Court of last resort by Africans themselves. Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of International Criminal Law and Justice training for Anglophone African Journalists at the Law Faculty of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) on November 14th-15th, 2019; Lawyer Dahirou Sant-Anna says the ICC does not intend to pursue Africans over international crimes except matters that were filed by Africans.

“It’s misrepresentation of the reality, unfortunately,  this kind of narrative is more listened to than what the reality is, the big majority of African cases were brought to the ICC by Africans themselves,  so it’s not as if ICC has decided to go and start working on the African situation, the case of Central African Republic, DR Congo, Uganda, Mali, were brought by the states themselves, those of Libya and Sudan were referred to the ICC by UN Security Council, except Kenya and Cote D’Ivoire where the prosecutor decided to investigate herself”, he maintained.

The ICC established in July 2002, by the Rome Statute, remains a court of last resort and if sovereign states failed to prosecute persons alleged to have committed international crime, the Hague-tribunal steps in with the sole responsibility to prosecute those perpetrators. The ICC has the jurisdictions (an area of authority) to prosecute crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide and crimes of aggression. The ICC has 122 state parties with majority from Africa.

Meanwhile, Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) other civil society organisations such as African Center for International Law and Accountability (ACILA) have been at the forefront and pushing for prosecution of the Ex-Gambian Leader Yahya Jammeh for alleged murder of 44 Ghanaians in the Gambia. A former Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Justice Emile Short, has added his voice to the clarion call urging government to take urgent steps to bring former Gambian Leader Yahya Jammeh to justice for the massacre of 44 Ghanaian immigrants in 2005.

Former Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh

The 44 were murdered during the regime of Mr Jammeh, allegedly on his orders. Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) including the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) and Amnesty International launched a campaign in 2018 – Jammeh2JusticeGhana – to demand swift action from the government on the matter. According to Mr Short, Ghana must trigger extradition processes for Mr. Jammeh to face prosecution in Ghana.

After a meeting of some CSOs in Accra-Ghana the former Judge of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda said legal and diplomatic efforts must be made to bring closure to the matter.

“My hope, and I think I speak for everybody here, is that the government of Ghana will take all measures (legal, political, administrative) to ensure that Jammeh is extradited to Ghana to face trial for the murder of these 44 Ghanaians.” he noted.

He said there are legal grounds on which the processes could be triggered and Ghana should make use of those provisions. Mr Short entreated the government to attach seriousness to the matter and ensure that justice is delivered.

But, the International Cooperation Adviser of ICC Lawyer Dahirou Sant-Anna says Ghanaian government has not brought before the ICC alleged murder of 44 Ghanaians in the Gambia to warrant the trial of Ex-President Yahya Jammeh.

He says “no such situation of the event you referred to has been brought to the ICC as a referral to investigate or prosecute”.

On the issue of the role of the ICC in providing reliefs to victims of international crimes, Lawyer Sant-Anna revealed the ICC has a trust fund for providing reliefs to victims of international crimes.

Meanwhile, Senior Trial Lawyer Jean-Jacques Badibanga wants Journalists to scale up reports on international crimes in accordance with law and best practices by cross checking facts before publishing. 

The International Criminal Law and Justice training for Anglophone African Journalists by African Centre of International Criminal Law and Justice at GIMPA Faculty of Law seeks to build capacity of African Law students in the field of international Criminal Law and Justice. Over 30 Journalists from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Cameroon and others participated in 2019 African Centre for International Criminal Justice training held at GIMPA Law Faculty in Accra-Ghana.

A Lecturer at GIMPA Faculty of Law and Lancaster University Ghana Dr. Nnenna Ifeanyi-Ajufo has appealed to the ICC to legally broaden its scope to enable it make determination of matters relating to abuse within the cyber space. According to her, the Rome Statute is almost silent on cyber cases. 

Government of Ghana under National Cyber Security Center in recent times has been at the forefront of devising ways to resolve emerging cyber issues. Ghana’s Attorney General’s Department has drafted Security Bill to be presented to parliament for passage into law in 2020. The totality of this is to regulate the cyber space aimed at tackling head-on cybercrimes and cyber fraud otherwise known as illegal hacking into systems to cause havoc. 

Meanwhile, Ghana’s Ministry of Communications has revealed it is taking urgent steps to ensure children are protected from sexually inappropriate online contents in Ghana. According to Deputy Minister of Communications Vincent Odotei Sowah, Global Kids Online Toolkit, a research conducted with support of UNICEF, revealed 4 in 10 children have seen sexual images at least once in the past, and 4 out of every 10 adolescents accept all friend requests made to them by people they have never met. These statistics were gathered from a research where a quarter of the over 2000 youth surveyed indicated that they had received sexual images on their phones. 2 in 10 children had actually met someone face to face whom they first got to know on the internet, with 25% of them being upset by these meetings.

Most of the children who have these encounters are unable to share their experiences, with about half of all the surveyed children expressing difficulty in talking about exposure to sexual images or predators with their guardians. Speaking to Class FM’s Jerry Akornor on the sidelines of Ministry of Communications – International Telecommunication Union Child  Online Protection (COP) Africa Forum in Accra, the La Dadekopon Lawmaker Odotei Sowah said: ” the findings require urgent action plan to ensure safety of children’s  interaction online”.

The need to ensure children are not exposed to inappropriate contents online is urgent and requires concerted efforts.

The ICC remains one of the tools at the disposal of states facing international crimes. At the heart of crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide and aggression which the ICC is obliged to resolve, is that critical issues of ongoing battle against human rights violations, pursuance of sustainable peace and justice. The question remains whether or not African countries are still dragging their feet when it comes to domesticating and operationalizing international protocols on human rights they have already appended signatures to. It is against this background that I draw your attention to the subject matter.




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