Tuesday, October 15, 2013
ICC Mandate and Processes Shouldn’t Be Abused
By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
[Dip. Law (First Class)–LDC; PG Cert. Oil & Gas–Mak; LLB (Hons)–Mak; Dip. LP Candidate–LDC]
I learnt, with mixed feelings of shock and surprise, from local Ugandan media, that an American based gay human rights lobby group, has petitioned the International Criminal Court (ICC), asking the Court to indict a section of Ugandans, for allegedly infringing on purported gays’ human rights. That the targeted group include Hon. David Bahati, who in 2009, presented an Anti Homosexuality Bill, in the Ugandan Parliament and other prominent proponents of the Bill, also anti-homosexuality activists, like Hon. Father Simon Lokodo, Member of Parliament and State Minister for Ethics and Integrity, Dr James Nsaba Buturo, former Member of Parliament and State Minister for Ethics and Integrity, Mr Martin Ssempa, a senior pastor and Mr Stephen Langa, a family and relationships counsellor, among others. The Anti Homosexuality Bill, 2009, seeks to criminalise homosexuality in Uganda and proposes stiff punishments for offenders, like life imprisonment.
The American lobby group reportedly alleges that these gentlemen have repeatedly abused purported gays’ human rights, for which reason, in their opinion, the ICC should indict and try them. Certainly, this is a clever ploy to promote the homosexuality agenda in such conservative societies like Uganda. Unfortunately, this matter has been brought before an improper forum and it is a clear abuse of the ICC’s mandate and processes. The ICC’s mandate is stipulated under Article 5(1) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, as a court, whose jurisdiction is “... limited to the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole.” Further, the Court may only try offences related to the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. The allegations by the American lobby group, it is submitted, do not fall among any of these crimes, because in the first place, there isn’t international consensus that homosexuality is an acceptable practice and a human right of sorts, since many people in Africa and the rest of the world, abhor it and have openly said so. Therefore, the purported gay rights violations don’t amount to acts of “... the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole,” which is the core mandate of the ICC, as per the Rome Statute.
The ICC is a decent and noble institution that should not be dragged in such mischievous machinations. I would implore the Court to reject this veiled attempt to abuse its mandate and processes, by turning down the request to indict these innocent Ugandans. In so doing, the integrity and reputation of the Court will be safeguarded.
A Modest Proposal to the ICC
Recently, on Saturday, 12 October, 2013, the African Union, composed of the Heads of States and Governments, passed a resolution that all African leaders should not allow to be tried by the Court, during their stay in office. It is notable that of late, African leaders have stepped up their campaign against the ICC, apparently because they are scared that they may fall pray to it, sooner than later. Their strategy is to de-campaign and dehumanise the Court, by incorrectly portraying it as being against African interests. Just like any other court or judicial system, the best and easiest way to overthrow it, is to undermine its legitimacy and integrity before the very people it is meant to serve.
I propose that the ICC and its partners should now embark on a massive campaign to undo this harm, through competent and loyal cadres, by explaining the Court’s policy objectives and activities in Africa, to ordinary Africans, through say, the media and seminars. Otherwise, very soon, the Court may find it impossible to do even the simplest tasks, like finding and keeping witnesses. The Outreach Unit, currently headed by two excellent ladies, Ms Claudia Perdomo, at the international level and its other regional representatives, like Ms Maria Mabinty Kamara, at the East African region level, could spearhead this campaign, to save the Court’s image and relevancy in Africa.