1 May 2014

Africa Plan to Seize ICC Control

AFRICA is plotting to seize control of the International Criminal Court for the next three years. African states met the current President of the Assembly of State Parties Tiina Intelmann (Estonia), on February 10 in New York to demand her seat when she retires later this year.

On April 7, the same group of African state parties to the ICC met again in New York. Botswana, Senegal and Sierra Leone all expressed interest in taking up the ASP chairmanship.

The Assembly, which Intelmann has presided over for the last three years, is the political arm of the court. Last November it passed amendments to the ICC Rules of Procedure and Evidence that favored Kenya.

Africa is the single largest bloc in the 122 member Assembly with 34 members followed by Latin America and Caribbean which has 27 members, Western Europe with 25, Eastern Europe 18 members, and Asia-Pacific 18 members.

Africa may also take the top judicial position at the ICC when the current president Sang-Hyun Song retires later this year. The ICC first vice president is Sanji Mmasenono Monageng from Botswana who will be in charge of the ICC before her term expires in March 2015.

The ICC's judges will then hold a fresh election and she would be the favorite to clinch the position of president. The ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is a Gambian. Her office is an independent organ of the court.

The ASP Deputy President Ken Kanda, a Ghanaian, has already indicated that the next president would come from Africa. "The Vice-President expressed confidence that a candidate would emerge from among African States Parties who could be endorsed by the Bureau by 30 June 2014 and elected by the Assembly by consensus," read minutes of an ASP meeting dated April 16 seen by the Star.

"Consultations in the respective capitals will be conducted over the next few weeks," the minutes state. Intelmann informed the meeting that she had met with the candidates and representatives of their states.

Three other positions at the ASP will be filled including two Vice President positions - presently occupied by Kanda and Markus Borlin from Switzerland - and the of rapporteur held by Alejandra Quezada from Chile.

The ASP will also vote for the 18 members of the bureau. From Africa, the terms of Gabon, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda are expiring. All the positions must be filled before June 30 but they will take office on December 18 when the 13th session of the ASP takes place.

They will hold office and run affairs of the Assembly until December 2017. The ICC will also soon hold elections to fill the posts of six judges who are retiring next year. Akua Kuenyehia is from Ghana but the others are pre-trial judges Ekaterina Trendafilova (Bulgaria) and Hans Peter Kaul (German) who handled the Kenyan cases, and appeal judges Errki Kourula (Finland) and Anita Usacka (Latvia).

An advisory committee will meet in New York from September 8 to 12 to assess candidates nominated by their countries. The election of the six candidates will take place on December 8, the first day of the Assembly meeting. Civil society groups that support ICC have called for a transparent selection process.

"The only way the ICC can be recognized as pre-eminent, unbiased, independent and effective--as an international tribunal that ensures fairness in its procedures and trials-- is if the Court's chambers are composed of the most highly qualified and impartial judges," said Coalition for ICC Convenor William R. Pace. Kenya has one judge, Joyce Aluoch, at the ICC. She became a trial judge in March 2009 and is serving a term of nine years.

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