African states that have ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court are to meet at a two-day summit beginning Monday in Gaborone, Botswana. 

The workshop is organized by the government of Liechtenstein, the Global Institute for the Prevention of Aggression, and Botswana President Seretse Ian Khama.

This will be the first meeting of African signatories to the Rome Statute that will focus on the prevention of the crime of aggression.

Liechtenstein U.N. Ambassador Christian Wenaweser says he is working with African countries to ratify a crimes of aggression amendment approved during a 2010 review conference held in Kampala, Uganda.

President of the Assembly of State Parties to the
Amb. Christian Wenaweser (file photo)

“The purpose of our workshop is to bring all the African state parties together and to discuss with them how best to ratify and implement these provisions, with the view to having as many as possible ratify those amendments quickly,” said Wenaweser.  “The only thing that this does and we think that is very important, is to not only [make an act of aggression] illegal under international law, but to make them actually [a] criminal act by individuals [or] by leaders.”

The Kampala review conference adopted a definition of the crime of aggression, allowing the International Criminal Court to exercise jurisdiction over the crime for the first time. Thirty states must ratify the amendment for it to come into force; only five have signed.

Wenaweser, who is a major proponent of the crime of aggression amendment, says he is working with African countries to ratify the amendment.  He says several African nations have demonstrated a willingness to prevent aggression on the continent.

“Many of those have expressed their intention to ratify the Kampala amendment as well.  Certainly, among them is Botswana and other countries like Senegal and Ghana, and others in the region have indicated very clearly that they want to ratify these amendments,” said Wenaweser.

But some critics of the International Criminal Court say during the past decade the court has opened eight investigations and indicted two dozen people, all in Africa.  They say the court is targeting the continent and are urging African countries to not ratify the amendment.

But Wenaweser disagrees.

He says, “The way we see it is that these provisions, more than anything else, give legal protection to states that may become the victim of aggression, and unfortunately we have seen quite a bit of this in the African region.”  He explains, “What we are doing is a global campaign to convince, persuade states all over the world to join the ICC regime on aggression.  But we want to start in Africa because this originated in Africa.”

Ambassador Wenaweser expressed the hope African states will support the amendment to stop the crime of aggression on the continent and other parts of the world.

Clottey interview with Ambassador Christian Wenaweser