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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Let’s explore other transitional justice mechanisms – Justice Kuenyehia


A Judge at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has advocated for other forms of transitional justice mechanisms apart from the international criminal justice system to advance the rule of law and democracy in Africa.
Mrs Justice Professor Akua Kuenyehia said: “I believe that a holistic approach is needed to advance the rule of law and democracy in Africa.
International criminal justice alone cannot bring about the needed reform.”
She made the observation at the 2010 Alumni Lecture organised by the University of Ghana (UG) in Accra.
The topic for the 22nd Alumni Lecture was: “The ICC: Friend or Foe to the Rule of Law and Democracy in Africa.”
Speaking on popular beliefs that the ICC was unfairly focusing on Africa, prolonging conflicts rather than terminating them, failing to address root cause of conflicts, hindering reconciliation efforts and slow to bring the needed justice, Justice Prof Kuenyehia stressed that some of the beliefs were rather overstated and misconstrued the role of ICC.
“It needs to be emphasised that the ICC is but one of the means of combating impunity on the continent. It is intended to complement other mechanisms in the promotion of the rule of law internationally”, she said adding, the ICC could not bring about the rule of law in Africa on its own.
On the issue of the claim made by some people that the ICC was unfairly focusing on Africa, Justice Prof Kuenyehia said the criticism often diverted attention from the real issues facing the continent adding the claim shielded the alleged perpetrators and maintained the bad human rights abuse, criminal and bad governance record on the continent.
“The truth is that serious crimes that require international intervention have been or are being committed in conflicts in Africa.
The victims of these crimes are invariably defenceless Africans who, having sometimes been let down by their governments, look to the international community for justice and protection”, she added.
Mrs Justice Prof Kuenyehia stressed that the assertion that ICC focused unfairly on the continent failed to look at the fact that the respective African States voluntarily referred to the ICC all the cases before it with the exception of the situation in Darfur, Sudan and Kenya.
“The truth is that African countries have been cooperating with the ICC in the investigation and prosecution of cases before it. This shows that, in a bid for accountability and given their own limited judicial capacity, some African states are looking up to the ICC for assistance”, she said.
Mrs Justice Prof Kuenyehia said the criticism that ICC would not deter future commission of serious crimes could not be said of any criminal justice system adding, “International criminal justice cannot deter international crimes any more than domestic criminal law is able to prevent domestic crime.”
She stressed that deterrence could not be the only yardstick for measuring the success of international criminal justice or the existence of the rule of law.
Mrs Justice Prof Kuenyehia however, expressed optimism that the ICC would grow its reputation so that those States that see the court as a threat would give it the needed support.
She said the existence of the ICC had symbolic consequences that should not be underestimated.
“The creation of a permanent institution with a mandate to bring current and future perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes to trial will stand as a towering monument to the collective conscience of humankind. On this symbolic level, the ICC has already made a difference”, she added.
Mrs Justice Prof Kuenyehia conceded that the ICC faced serious challenges, which included promoting human rights and the rule of law in Africa, weak enforcement mechanisms and lack of broad political support.
Professor Ernest Aryeetey, Vice-Chancellor of UG, said Ghana needed to learn from the bad situation on the continent to strengthen her institutions to promote good governance, rule of law and respect for human rights to avoid going to the ICC for a redress.
The ICC, a permanent international criminal court, was created by the Rome Statute and negotiated by member states of the United Nations in 1998.
It is a treaty based institution which came into force on July 1, 2002 following its ratification by 60 countries.
Currently there are 114 States parties to the Rome Statute and out of the number, 31 are Africans. Ghana has a drafted implementing legislation of the Rome Statute.
ICC aims at putting an end to impunity for the perpetrators of serious crimes of concern to the international community and thus contribute to the prevention of such crimes.
It also seeks to guarantee lasting respect for the enforcement of international justice.

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