26 November 2015

Namibia: LAC Saddened By Namibia's Withdrawal From ICC

Windhoek — The Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) has expressed its unhappiness over plans by the Namibian government to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Minister of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) Tjekero Tweya was quoted this week as saying Cabinet has approved a recommendation to withdraw Namibia from the ICC. In a statement issued this week, the law centre - whose main objective is to protect the human rights of all Namibians - said: "The Legal Assistance Centre is greatly saddened by the news that Namibia plans to withdraw from the International Criminal Court".

The LAC said it was one of the organisations that formed part of a coalition that encouraged Namibia and other countries to ratify the Rome Statute that created the ICC.

"Namibia did so in June 2002 and we were proud to say that as a country we believed in accountability and that what happens in Namibia matters to the rest of the world - and vice versa.

"We were not isolated and we too would stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, who may suffer atrocities sometimes committed by those tasked to uplift them," said LAC director Toni Hancox.

In June this year, New Era reported that International Relations Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said Namibia would not hesitate to withdraw from the ICC should proposed amendments made by the African Union (AU) not be considered. The AU, of which Namibia is a member, has over many years been calling for the Rome Statute to be amended, so that cases before the ICC against incumbent leaders can be deferred until their terms end.

"Sitting presidents should not be subject to prosecution, because they were democratically elected by the masses to lead them and now out of nowhere you have an international instrument that interferes with the will of the people," she said at the time.

African leaders have repeatedly criticised the ICC, saying it only targets them. In June Zimbabwean leader and African Union chairman Robert Mugabe criticised the ICC after Sudan's president narrowly evaded arrest in South Africa.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the ICC for alleged war crimes, including charges of genocide, linked to the conflict in the Darfur region. "This is not the headquarters of the ICC. We don't want it in this region at all," Mugabe was quoted as saying.

The ICC in turn denied any discrimination and pointed out that most cases are brought to the court by African countries themselves.

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