By Francis Maingaila
LUSAKA, Zambia (AA) – Zambia has launched a countrywide consultation process on whether or not to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) it joined in 2002.
Justice Minister Given Lubinda told journalists on Thursday that, although Zambian officials had not been specifically targeted as of yet as “wrongdoers”, the government wanted the people to contribute to the debate.
“During this consultative process, the people will make submissions that will enable the government to make its decision on Zambia’s affiliation to the ICC. It is this decision that will culminate into a position that will be presented at the 29th African Union (AU) Summit scheduled for this coming June.”
Lubinda argued that there was an increased number of Africans being referred to the international court.
Lubinda added certain countries on the UN Security Council had power to refer matters to the ICC but were not members of the court.
“This has brought the question of the sincerity these countries have in their quest for justice,” he said.
There are 34 African members of the ICC, making up the largest single bloc of the 124 states that have ratified the 2002 Treaty of Rome, which established the court to prosecute genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity cases in the wake of the violent break-up of Yugoslavia and genocide in Rwanda.
According to U.S.-based Harper’s magazine, which used ICC data, 97 percent of people who have been charged by the court in The Hague are African.
In 2012, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was charged with crimes against humanity over ethnic violence that led to 1,200 deaths following the 2007 election. He was the first head of state to appear before the court but the charges were withdrawn two years later.
The case fostered the belief among some Africans that the court was unfairly singling out the continent’s leaders.
Last October, South Africa, Burundi and Gambia decided to leave the ICC. However, Gambia and South Africa have since halted the withdrawal process.
Powerful nations such as the U.S., Russia, China and India never ratified the Rome Treaty over concerns about sovereignty and the exposure of their citizens and soldiers to the court.