The International Criminal Court (ICC) is today celebrating its 15th birthday, and its President Judge Sang-Hyun Song pledged full accountability in the court’s pursuit of justice.
“Ensuring accountability is a process which we must pursue ceaselessly, and on this day, I am thankful to the people without whom justice would never persevere,” Sang-Hyun said in a statement.
The ICC, a controversial institution despised by African Union leaders for what they describe as its politically-motivated witchhunt, was founded on 17 July 1998 in Rome, Italy, and is based in the Hague, in the Netherlands.
But Sang-Hyun said his organisation was not deterred by threats and obstacles of all sorts, vowing that the ICC will take no backward steps but move on regardless.
“While we have come a long way, we cannot afford complacency. We have travelled a long way down the path of accountability, but it is a journey which will never be complete,” he said. “We see obstacles on our way, but know they will be overcome.”
The ICC, which adopted the Rome Statute, currently has eight on-going investigations, eight preliminary examinations, and the issuance of 23 arrest warrants and nine summonses to appear.
The ICC said it was undertaking more investigations and conducting more proceedings involving more suspects than ever before.
“The story of the International Criminal Court gives us hope, it is proof that audacious goals can be achieved. Many said that this was an impossible task, that the adversity could not be overcome. But the global justice project proved strong,” he said.
The ICC has currently 122 member states.
As accusations of political injustice against African leaders and the West’s influence continue to hang over the institution, its president responded vehemently: “Make no mistake – the ICC faces threats today as real as ever before.
“There are those who seek to undermine the international justice movement, who politicise its action, who question its value, and who purport to speak for the victims it serves. There are those who refuse to cooperate, leaving more than ten ICC suspects still at large.”
Sudan President Omar al Bashir is one of the top suspects badly wanted by the Hague-based institution for alleged genocide committed in the Darfur region.
Bashir, who was due to speak early this week at an AU-sponsored health summit hosted in Nigeria left the event beforehand to evade arrest, the BBC and Nigerian media reported.
A human rights group on Monday filed a case in a Nigerian court to force the government to arrest the Sudanese head of state and hand him over to the International Criminal Court, BBC said.
But the African Union has since made a decision to stop cooperating with the ICC, prompting the Nigerian government not to order the arrest of Bashir.
Photo: ICC President Judge Sang-Hyun Song