Don’t leave ICC, reform it – Venaani

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Windhoek – Namibia and other African countries contemplating to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) should shelve their plans and, instead, embark on reforming the embattled judicial body, opposition leader McHenry Venaani said yesterday.

According to the DTA president, neither the African Union (AU) nor the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have shown sufficient political will to suggest that a sub-continental or continental alternative to the ICC is in the pipeline.

Venaani’s remarks come hot on the heels of a continental debate on withdrawal from the ICC, often perceived to target African leaders only, while leading western nations such as the United States have refused to ratify the Rome Statute and are therefore exempted from any prosecution.

So far, only South Africa, Gambia and Burundi have withdrawn from the ICC while Senegal, Nigeria and Tanzania have indicated that they will remain signatories to the Rome Statute.

Namibia has announced that it too will leave the ICC. New Era reported last week that the government was in the process of withdrawing, with the Ministry of Justice particularly tasked to study the process of withdrawal.

Kenya, whose President Uhuru Kenyatta was indicted by the ICC, remains undecided on whether to withdraw but claims that it is monitoring the situation.

Venaani called on African nations to remain with the institution.

“The DTA believes Namibia should rather strongly and robustly pursue reforms within the ICC, and not take action that could potentially see the country paved onto the path of a banana republic,” advised Venaani.

It is Venaani’s opinion that in the unlikely situation where sitting presidents make themselves guilty of gross human and fundamental rights violations, there must be avenues available to hold them to account.

“It is trite knowledge that the Namibian Constitution bars local courts from trying a sitting president for criminal offences committed during their tenure in office.”

He continued: “This prohibition extends to former presidents as well, thereby leaving no local recourse or remedy.”

“Until such time as local and regional channels and mechanisms exist, then it would be premature to withdraw from the ICC,” advised Venaani.

“Moreover, we believe that subscribing to these bodies also places an obligation on us to ensure their proper functioning by actively seeking reforms when and where necessary.”

“A closer look at the African countries that are eager to leave or have withdrawn ICC membership, already points to a disquieting trend for the African continent and her people.”

“In the absence of local or regional remedies, the ICC remains the only current existing platform.”

However, Venaani stressed that the DTA does not purport to say that the ICC is faultless.

“Indeed, we believe that significant reform of both the ICC and the United Nations (UN) is needed, so that African interests are properly articulated and protected.”

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