On the Eve of the AU Summit: How the ICC is Being Defended

[This appeared originally on Justice in Conflict on 11 October, 2013.]

As African leaders publicly question their support for the International Criminal Court, a wide range of ICC supporters have rallied to its defense. Here, along with my co-author, Chris Tenove, we use a framework put forward in our recent paper in the International Journal of Transitional Justice to examine the allies and the forms of authority that the Court can turn to. (Chris is a doctoral candidate in Political Science at the University of British Columbia and a semi-regular JiC blogger.)

Representatives of African Union governments recently gathered to hold an “emergency summit” in Addis Ababa to discuss the relationship between AU members and the International Criminal Court. The summit was a critical test of the ICC’s authority. Several commentators have already considered the meeting’s significance, potential outcomes and implications (and offered their own suggestions). Here, we would like to discuss what the summit tells us generally about what international criminal justice is and how it works. In particular, we would point to claims about the ICC’s authority made by those who rally to its defense.

In a recently published paper, we propose a framework explaining which actors are involved in international criminal justice (ICJ), what kinds of fundamental rules and practices motivate them and what forms of authority they wield. Continue reading

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ICC on trial before the African Union

“It is the culture of impunity and individuals who are on trial at the ICC, not Africa.”

Kofi Annan

 African Union

This weekend marks a very important moment in the history of international justice. In the wake of the controversial decision by the Kenyan Parliament to pass a motion to withdraw from the ICC, member states of the African Union (AU) are gathering in an extraordinary summit to discuss the possibility for African states to either withdraw from the Rome Statute or to end their cooperation with the ICC. Before analyzing the potential outcomes, here are couple of key points made by the AU Assembly in a report from May of this year:

“[The Assembly] DEEPLY REGRETS that the request by the African Union (AU) to the United Nations (UN) Security Council to defer the proceedings initiated against President Omar Al Bashir of The Sudan and Senior State Official of Kenya, in accordance with Article 16 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on deferral of cases by the UN Security Council, has not been acted upon; […]

EXPRESSES CONCERN at the threat that the indictment of H.E Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and H.E William Samoei Ruto, the President and Deputy-President of the Republic of Kenya respectively, may pose to the on-going efforts in the promotion of peace, national healing and reconciliation, as well as the rule of law and stability, not only in Kenya, but also in the Region.”

This weekend’s extraordinary summit seems to be a reaction to these regrets and concerns. Continue reading

Legal Representative’s report on “withdrawal” of 93 victims from Ruto case

[Updated September 16, 2013]

On June 5th, the Kenyan “Amani Peace Building and Welfare Association” sent a letter to the ICC claiming that 93 victims it had earlier helped to apply for participation at the pre-trial stage in Kenya 1 now wished to withdraw from the case. Last week, the Common Legal Representative, Wilfred Nderitu, filed his report on the withdrawal as requested by Trial Chamber V. The public redacted version is available here. It’s an interesting read and highlights some of the core challenges of making participation a reality on the ground: in particular, (1) the challenge of knowing what participating victims really think and want and (2) the challenge of knowing how to interpret the difficulties of international criminal legal work in the field. The Open Society Justice Initiative’s (OSJI) ICC Kenya Monitor also just wrote about this issue.

Nderitu

Common Legal Representative Wilfred Nderitu. Source: Reporting Kenya

Nderitu clarified that out of the 93 signatories, only 60 are within the scope of the case, including 13 whose status is “uncertain” (the other 33 being victims of the situation). He in-turn tried to consult with these 60 participants, all of whom come from Kenya’s Turbo region, to understand why they signed the letter.

Some apparently said that the letter had been brought to them to sign by some person or group (this is redacted), although the Chairman of the Amani organization claimed it was an initiative by and for the participating victims. Continue reading