THE African Union has demanded reforms at the International Criminal Court's office of the Prosecutor by the end of April or they will stop cooperating with the court.
In a letter to ICC President Sang Hyung Song, the African countries say the prosecution has failed in its mandate and must be reformed for the court to continue to exist. The letter says AU members will cease to cooperate with the court if the four issues raised in the letter are not addressed immediately.
"If the court fails to do so (reform the OTP's operations), the writers of this letter shall not extend further cooperation to the ICC, whether obliged by treaty of otherwise."
The letter says African countries want the OTP reformed; to stop receiving money from private sources; to be grounded on criminal law; and barred from initiating investigations on its own.
The AU says its members are concerned that there is lack of transparency in the operations of the OTP. The letter says the court has failed to adhere to "stringent evidential standards and investigation techniques" thus failing to collect credible evidence.
It states that the OTP has been outsourcing its responsibilities by engaging privately funded intermediaries. "From a comparative point of view the whole process of outsourcing critical prosecutional functions of the court involving a gender drive, privately funded, often non-transparent and unaccountable NGOs to the unacceptable detriment of the rights of the accused, would be impermissible in any criminal justice system of member countries of the international community," the letter says.
The AU says it is unacceptable for the court to continue accepting private funding from NGOs for the prosecution's activities. "Private funding can have the effect of directing the work of the court and thus influencing the court's impartiality or at minimum, appear to do so," the letter says.
The African countries say compared to national courts, the ICC is grounded in principles of international humanitarian law, while purporting to investigate and judge as criminal charges.
"We request that the ICC to develop a plan to repair these issues in the interest of justice. We ask you to inform us of a pattern of concrete, satisfactory steps to remedy these four issues by April 30," the letter says.