Now Rwanda and Burundi have become the latest African countries to request to be allowed to respond to an appeal by ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.In July, the ICC ruled that Deputy President William Ruto did not have to attend all sessions of his trial in the Hague because of his state responsibilities.
His co-accused former broadcaster Joshua arap Sang was however expected to attend all sessions of his trial.Bensouda immediately appealed the ruling saying that justice for the victims required the accused to be in court throughout the trial.
The court then suspended the ruling that Ruto did not need to be present at his trial until Bensouda’s appeal was resolved.Now Rwanda, which is yet to sign the Rome Statute, and its neighbour Burundi have written to the ICC asking to be allowed to make submissions in response to Bensouda’s appeal as an ‘amicus curiae’ (friend of the court).
The day before Tanzania made a similar request and informed sources said that another 15 Africa countries are likely to ask to be enjoined in the appeal this week..The three requests filed so far all want the ICC to adopt a more flexible approach on Article 63 of the Rome Statute which requires the presence of the accused throughout the trial.Each country’s request contains the identical paragraph stating, “Can help the ICC adopt a broad and flexible interpretation of the Article 63 of the Rome Statutes?
An interpretation which encourages state cooperation in the widest possible set of circumstances and without jeopardising the constitutional responsibilities of leaders.”The three countries have said that the briefs, if they are allowed to file them, will consider the balance between the ICC’s jurisdiction and the responsibilities of those who occupy high office.Burundi’s request was signed by the Minister for External Relations, Kavakure Laurent.Rwanda’s Justice minister and Attorney General, Johnston Busingye, wrote that handling these concerns would help Rwanda decide whether to or not join the ICC.”
As the Appeals Chamber is aware, there has been considerable debate, both at the domestic and international level, about whether non-state Parties such as Rwanda need to sign the Statute. Concerns about whether such a move would prove to be in the national interest were raised and continue to be raised,” Busingye said.Like Tanzania, Rwanda argued that its submissions would help the ICC clarify how people who hold high offices will be treated while facing trial.
“The brief will also consider the competing rights and obligations which will converge when those who occupy high office become the subject of proceedings at the Court,” Busingye said.On Monday, Tanzania’s Attorney General Fredrick Mwita wrote to the ICC arguing that allowing Ruto to skip parts of his trial would enhance co-operation between the court and state parties.There has been a quest by African countries to tame the ICC which is accused of being biased against Africans.
All eight ongoing situations at the ICC involve Africans.Last week the National Assembly in Nairobi passed a motion seeking to withdraw Kenya from the Rome Statute, a move supported by Uganda and South Africa so far.
In May, heads of state of the African Union passed a resolution seeking a mass walk-out from the ICC.Yesterday, the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims warned that those affected by the post-election violence will not be compensated if Kenya pulls out of the ICC.There are 122 countries who are states parties to the Rome Statute. Out of them 34 are from Africa, 18 are from Asia-Pacific, 18 from Eastern Europe, 27 are from Latin America and Caribbean, and 25 are from Western Europe.