Africa up in arms against ICC over Gbagbo trial

Africa up in arms against ICC over Gbagbo trial

Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo is expected to appear before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague for war crimes and already, the trial has rekindled a bitter row across Africa over the international justice system.

The ICC is being allegedly labeled as pushing an agenda for pursuing Africans alone with Gbagbo as the first ex-head of state to be dragged into the dock at the world's only permanent war crimes court on Thursday.

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According to the claims being spearheaded by prominent Africans as Babacar Ba, a head of a judicial forum in Senegal, the continent instead should have its own court.

"It leaves me a bit puzzled to see former African leaders dragged before the ICC," Babacar Ba, told AFP in Dakar.

"It's as if we Africans are incompetent to decide the law or lack the resources to judge our own people," added Ba.

The astute lawyer proposed that Africa could have set up Extraordinary African Chambers as they did for Hissene Habre, a former Chadian dictator who ruled from 1982 until he was deposed in 1990.

This was a special court set up in Dakar by the African Union to try the former Chadian leader.

The first phase of the Habre trial, which wrapped up in December set up a historical precedence that side stepped the role of the ICC who until then had tried African leaders in international courts for such abuse.

The trial saw an African head of state forced to account for his actions in another African nation's court under the principle of "universal competence".

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon mentioned in his New Year message that the Habre trial, along with several cases before the ICC, showed "the surge in accountability mechanisms."

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"The world is witnessing a sea change in ending impunity for atrocious crimes," he added.

African leaders have accused the ICC of acting as the judicial arm of foreign powers.

The creation of the ICC was strongly backed by Africa which now considers it, alien to her cause as said as, "no longer a tribunal for all," according to Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhamon Ghebreyesus.

At stake at the Habre trial that opened last year was Africa's "capacity to judge its own children so others don't do it in its stead", said Marcel Mendy, spokesman for the Extraordinary African Chambers.

The ICC prosecutor, herself an African, Fatou Bensouda of Gambia, disagrees. "All the cases we have, with the exception of Kenya, Sudan and Libya, were initiated on the request of African states," she told AFP in November.


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