A collection of African civil society organizations on Monday issued a declaration [text] urging greater cooperation between the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] and African nations during the upcoming ICC review conference. The group of 124 organizations called on African governments to enhance their cooperation with the court and to make greater efforts in the execution of outstanding warrants. The declaration also urged member states to improve their national judicial systems in order to maintain the court's status as one of last resort, and called on states that had not ratified the Rome Statute [text], the treaty establishing the court, to do so. In explaining the purpose of the declaration and the need for greater continental cooperation with the ICC, the authoring organizations said:
We ... call on African governments to make the most of the upcoming review conference... The review conference comes at a critical time in the development of the ICC. ... [T]he court faces important challenges to implementing its mandate successfully, includ[ing] challenges in conducting court operations, such as obtaining adequate support ... [and] external attacks on the institution... The review conference offers an exceptional occasion for African governments to help advance the global fight against impunity by restating their commitment to justice for the victims of grave crimes and offering views on the development of international criminal justice and the ICC.The Review Conference of the Rome Statute [official website] will take place in Kampala, Uganda from May 31 to June 11, 2010. During the conference, member states will consider proposed amendments [text] to the statute.
The majority of the ICC caseload has come from Africa, causing tense relations with the governments in the region. The ICC on Wednesday sent a delegation [JURIST report] from the Office of the Prosecutor [official website] to Guinea to further investigate the killing of more than 150 pro-democracy protesters in Conakry in September 2009. In March, ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] submitted [JURIST report] to ICC judges the names of 20 senior political and business leaders who "bear the gravest responsibility" for the deadly violence perpetrated after Kenya's 2007 presidential election [JURIST news archive]. In March 2009, the ICC issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for Sudanese head of state Omar al-Bashir [ICC materials, PDF; JURIST news archive], charging him with seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but declining to charge him with genocide. The warrant was rejected [BBC report] by Bashir, and strongly denounced [Reuters report] by the chairman of the African Union (AU) [official website], Muammar al-Gaddafi [BBC profile]. Gaddafi described the warrant as a form of terrorism and raised the possibility of the withdrawal of African member states in protest.