Joseph Chilenge, the presiding officer of the African Union’s Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) today said African countries were weighing a massive withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) because the judicial system was dysfunctional.
Mr. Chilenge made the submission while speaking at an event organized by the Center for Peace and Media Initiative (CPMI) in New York to discuss the proposed withdrawal of African countries from the International Criminal Court. The AU representative spoke alongside Lawrence Freeman, an international affairs analyst.
Mr. Chilenge stated that the ICC was conceived to act as a court of last resort, but regretted that, in cases involving African countries, the court frequently assumes the position of a “first and last window for justice.” “That, to us, is raping the international justice system,” he said.
The AU representative added, “The fact of the matter is that we don’t condone impunity in Africa. But to address impunity, you don’t need to impugn justice.” He criticized the fact that the UN Security Council makes referrals to the ICC even though the majority of its members are not state parties to the ICC.
He accused the ICC of interfering with the sovereignty of African states.
Mr. Chilenge fiercely opposed a proposal to authorize United Nations peacekeepers to arrest individuals. According to him, the proposal was a threat to “the architecture of peace and security because if that provision goes through, no country in the world, especially in Africa, will accept to have peacekeepers on our territory.”
He also criticized the UN Security for neither acknowledging receipt of nor responding to correspondence from any of Africa’s 54 countries. He argued that the ICC had become “an imperialistic court being used for political justice.”
He disclosed that the African Union intends to extend the jurisdiction of the African Court to international crimes.
In his remarks, Mr. Freeman echoed some of Mr. Chilenge’s concerns, stated, “To have an international body deciding which country’s sovereignty can be violated by this global international court is actually a form of imperialism.” According to him, the ICC’s power to violate sovereignty was more dangerous to the world than the individuals who the court pursues.
“My view is the ICC should have never come into existence. The countries that supported the formation of the ICC made a mistake,” said Mr. Freeman. He added that the court “has served no useful purpose whatsoever. In fact, it has made the world more dangerous.” He argued that the ICC was often a mechanism to effect regime change.