ICC DEBATE

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 09:01:23 +0000

 

 

IT is unacceptable for the UPND Monze Central member of Parliament Jack Mwiimbu to deliberately mislead Zambians into believing that the debate on whether or not Zambia should remain a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) agenda.

In his winding up debate to Parliament before Parliament adjourned sine die yesterday, Mr Mwiimbu made very wild allegations against the PF-led government concerning the topical issue.

In his characteristic manner, by virtue of being leader of the opposition in Parliament, one could not be mistaken to conclude that the UPND have their priorities wrong on the ICC debate.

It must be underscored here that the consultative process on Zambia’s position on the membership to the ICC is not a PF party agenda, hence politicising it is being trivial.

This is not the first time that Government has procedurally decided to conduct wide public consultation before a final position is made known on a matter.

For instance, it is common knowledge that governments have previously employed a broad consultative approach when undertaking the constitutional review processes as well as referendum on the Bill of Rights.

And it should not come as a surprise to the UPND lawmaker that Government has thought it prudent to engage all citizens before arriving at a decision regarding Zambia’s membership to the ICC.

Needless to remind the UPND leadership that Zambia practices democracy. As such, government is expected to engage the people in a public discourse on such a matter of national interest.

The debate has its genesis from the passing of a non-binding recommendation for a mass withdrawal of African countries from the ICC at the 28th Summit of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) citing impartiality of the Court.

Head of States, including the President of Zambia Edgar Lungu, who were not in a position to give their decision on the matter requested for more time to consult their citizen.

And this is why Cabinet at its sitting on Monday, 13th February, 2017, authorised the Minister of Justice to initiate and spearhead a countrywide consultation process which must serve as a basis on which to make a decision for presentation during the 29th Summit of the Assembly of the African Union scheduled for June/July, 2017.

Notwithstanding the jurisdiction of the ICC, the widely supported position by majority African countries to withdraw membership is well-founded.

Following the violence that characterised the South African apartheid, the Rwandan genocide and number of coup d’état, many some African States welcomed the ICC as a beacon of justice.

With time, however, the impartiality of the Court in the execution of its mandate has been a source of great concern.

It is demonstrably clear that since its establishment in 2002, the ICC has targeted African countries both in investigation and prosecution of Head of States. Of the ten, nine investigations on allegations of violation of international criminal law relate to African countries, with Georgia being the only country outside Africa.

Is Africa the only continent riddled with human right abuses, crimes of aggression, genocide and crimes against humanity?

Our research indicates that though the ICC has received information on alleged abuses in Iraq, Venezuela, Palestine, Colombia and Afghanistan, there is inertia on the part of the Court to take decisive action against certain countries.

It is this bias against Africa and respective Head of States that we think there is urgent need to properly re-examine Zambia’s continued membership to the ICC.

The UPND should not downplay the critical role that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair played in the Iraq war few years ago. Has the ICC prosecuted him?

On the other hand, when the ICC indicts a sitting president like is the case for Kenya and Sudan, it is more or less indicting the State itself which is incompatible with not only domestic laws but also international norms on the immunity of the Head of State.

In our view, this is wholly flawed as it usurps the member States of their sovereignty and only provides an appendage on which Western countries subject African leaders to ridicule.

We think that the ICC legitimacy is futile as some of the States which are responsible for violating international criminal law are not members of the Court, but are instead part of the Security Council which can refer situations to the ICC.

Given this institutional prejudice, should Zambia remain a member of the ICC?

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