The Executive Director of Africa Legal Aid, Ms. Evelyn Ankumah has argued that the International Criminal Court (ICC) should be used as a default court to try atrocity crimes and not as a court of first instance.
Using the imagery of electricity power and a back-up generator to drive her point home to aid better understanding within the context of the previous erratic electricity power situation in Ghana, Ms. Ankumah said the normal power should be the national courts in accordance with the exercise of complementarity under the Rome Statute so that when the national courts fail, the powers of the ICC, which is the back-up generator would be invoked.
She reiterated that in the usual course of events, one would need to use a generator only when there is a power cut from the main electricity supply, adding that having a back –up generator must be encouraged especially as some States may be unable or unwilling to prosecute atrocity crimes that occur in their jurisdiction.
Article 1 of the Rome Statute in relevant parts provides that the ICC shall be a permanent institution and shall have the power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern, and shall be complementary to national criminal jurisdictions.
Ms. Evelyn Ankumah made these remarks during a panel discussion commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the ICC in in Accra on Monday.
A cross-section of the participants
The discussion was organized by the Africa Center for International Law and Accountability in collaboration with CDD-Ghana. The discussion, which was sponsored by Senegal-based Trust Africa, was on the theme “20 Years of the ICC: The Hits, Misses, and Prospects for Pursuing Justice for Victims of Atrocity Crimes."
The discussion was led by experts in international justice such as Justice Emile Francis Short, Former Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Professor Anne Pieter Van Der Mei, Department of Public Law, Maastricht University, H.E KabralBlay-Amihere, Former Ghanaian Ambassador to Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast and Ms. Evelyn Ankumah, Executive Director, Africa Legal Aid. The Discussion was chaired by H.E Judge Akua Kuenyehia, former Vice President of the International Criminal Court.
Discussants included international justice experts, Members of Parliament, officials from the Executive branch of government, legal practitioners, academics, Diplomatic corps, civil society, and the media.
The ICC is an intergovernmental organization and international criminal tribunal that sits in The Hague in the Netherlands. The ICC has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. A fourth crime, the crime of aggression, will come under the jurisdiction of the ICC when the required number of states have ratified it.
The ICC is intended to complement existing national judicial systems and it may therefore only exercise its jurisdiction when certain conditions are met, such as when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute those who bear the greatest responsibility for the crimes under the court’s jurisdiction.
State parties can refer a case to the ICC or the prosecutor acting pursuant to the exercise of his or her priopro muto powers can bring charges against a person suspected of committing the atrocity under the jurisdiction of the court.
In addition, United Nations Security Council which has the responsibility of maintaining world peace can also refer a case to the ICC. The ICC began functioning on 1 July 2002, the date that the Rome Statute entered into force.