year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Rome Statute of the International
Criminal Court since its adoption in July 1998. To raise awareness on the work
of the International Criminal Court, Africa Legal Aid in collaboration with the
Attorney General’s Chamber alongside other partners on Thursday evening hosted
a reception in honour of the 20th anniversary celebration of the Rome Statute
of the ICC at a hotel in Kololi.
Welcoming dignitaries, Evelyn A. Ankumah, executive director, Africa Legal Aid (AFLA) reminded that Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court recognises the Protocol of Complemetarity and defines the ICC as a default court. “In a car that is driving us to a destination called criminal justice, the ICC is supposed to sit at the back seat. It will only jump into the driver’s seat when national or local authorities in the front seat are unwilling or unable to drive towards a destination call international justice or criminal justice. Since the adoption of the Rome Statute twenty years ago, international criminal justice now features more prominently on international political agenda than before,” she said.
The notion that no person can escape the wings of criminal justice, she observed, has now sanked in the minds of people. However, she noted that there is still opposition, but all too often by persons, who themselves feared prosecution or who are allies of such persons.
Ankumah acknowledged that they have all reasons to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Rome Statute of the ICC, highlighting some of the gains made by the court in international criminal justice. Deputysing for the vice president and minister of Women’s Affairs, Mariam Khan-Senghore, permanent secretary at the Office of the Vice President, first expressed gratitude on behalf of the government and people of The Gambia to AFLA for choosing The Gambia to host the West Africa Stakeholders’ confab, which she said, came at a crucial time in “our country’s political history as we chart a way forward to democratic governance after 22 years of oppressive rule.”
Due to widespread human rights violations during the former regime, she said, the new government has formulated a transitional justice programme to guide in the short and medium term justice sector reforms in the transition process. “The overriding consideration of the programme is to ensure that The Gambia lays a foundation for a better governance environment anchor on the rule of law and leave up to expectations as a peaceful and democratic nation by encouraging national reconciliation,” she added.
For his part, Judge Geoffrey Andrew Henderson of the International Criminal Court acknowledged that the long road to the Rome Statute and the ICC can in part, also be traced back to the early 50s when two young bright men crossed paths at the Oxford University. “In 1953, a young man by the name of Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson from the tiny fishing village of Castara in the then British colony of Trinidad and Tobago was admitted to read for the Bachelor’s Degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. He immediately joined the Oxford Union where he met and established rapport and friendship with another student Robert Woetzel.” According to him, Woetzel who was Jewish and fled to Germany as a child just before the outbreak of WWII, was then writing his PhD thesis on the subject of the Nuremberg trials. This, he added, was the start of a long friendship which ended in Woetzel’s death in 1991, saying during this period they partnered in the long haul towards the ICC.
“On 1st July 2002, the Rome Statute entered into force and the court was set up. The first judges and the prosecutor took office. Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo were the first States to deposit their trust in the new institution and triggered with their referrals, the first investigations. Other investigations would follow, initiated upon referrals by other states and the Security Council or ex-officio, by the prosecutor with the authorization of the pre-trial judges. To date, this has resulted in 11 investigations, 25 cases, 9 convictions, 1 acquittal, reparation orders, 3 ongoing trials and some 14,000 victims participating in the proceedings” he added.