The International Criminal Court (ICC) has dismissed Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni’s Tuesday attack on its independence and influence, with an official at The Hague-based court expressing dismay at the Ugandan leader’s comments.
In a telephone interview with the Daily Monitor newspaper from Nairobi yesterday, Ms Maria Mabinty Kamara leapt to the defence of the Court.
She said Mr Museveni’s criticism had only served to present an opportunity to the Court to “re-emphasise its position on its judicial mandate.”
“The ICC takes into consideration the highest standards of proceedings,” said Ms Kamara. “The ICC remains completely apolitical. It is a judicial institution.” She is the outreach coordinator for Uganda and Kenya.
Speaking in Nairobi at the inauguration of Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, who stands indicted by the ICC with crimes against humanity, Mr Museveni accused the court of blackmail, incompetence and self-interest in charging the new Kenyan leader.
In his eyebrow-raising speech, Mr Museveni said the ICC had been “grabbed by a bunch of self-seekers and shallow-minded people whose interests is to mint revenge on those who hold opposing views.”
Although he offered no specifics, the National Resistance Movement leader said the election of Mr Kenyatta and his deputy, Mr William Ruto, was a reminder to those using the ICC to blackmail others (African leaders) for selfish reasons that Africa is not a haven for them.
However, Ms Kamara disagreed with the President’s assertion and said she found his comments surprising given that Uganda remains a state party to the ICC and is a signatory to the Rome Statute creating the court.
Ms Kamara said Uganda’s January 2004 referral of Joseph Kony and his Lord Resistance Army rebels to the ICC for action, “one of the court’s earliest referrals”, was evidence of the country’s faith in an institution for which Mr Museveni now castigates.
In his Tuesday speech, Mr Museveni said Uganda referred the LRA to the ICC because Joseph Kony “was operating outside Uganda. Otherwise, we would have handled him ourselves.”
Mr Museveni said although he was “one of those” who supported the ICC at its inception, the Court has since morphed into a tool “to install leaders of their choice in Africa and eliminate the ones they do not like.”
Ms Kamara said, however, that the Court remains “purely" a judicial institution. “There are no political considerations when the judges take into account decisions of issuing arrest warrants,” she said.
“The ICC judges are coming from different regions of the world including Africa. So it is only on legal roots and evidence presented to the judges that a decision is taken.”