(Left to right) ICC Registrar Mr Peter Lewis, ASP President H.E. O-Gon Kwon, President of Nigeria H.E. Muhammadu Buhari, ICC President Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji and ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda at the high-level commemorations of the Rome Statute’s anniversary on 17 July 2018 ©ICC-CPI

President Muhammadu Buhari has said the ICC has given hope for justice to so many, by demanding strict adherence  to  the  rules  of  international humanitarian law.

He made this remark when he was delivering a keynote address on 16 and 17 July 2018, at an event held at the headquarters of International Criminal Court (“ICC” or “the Court”), in The Hague, The Netherlands, to mark the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute of the ICC.

We publish excerpts from his important speech below:

In addition to preventing impunity, promoting  adherence  and respect for the rule of law and fundamental freedoms worldwide and to punishing  those  in  leadership  positions  responsible  for  the  most appalling crimes and atrocities, the ICC has given hope for justice to so many,  by  demanding  strict  adherence  to  the  rules  of  international humanitarian law.

With the alarming proliferation of the most serious crimes around the world, the ICC, and all that it stands for, is now needed more than ever, in ways that were unforeseeable to its founders. The ICC may have been created at a time of optimism that it would not need to be utilized frequently, but, unfortunately, the increase in international crimes has only increased the Court’s relevance.

Indeed, while limits on the ICC’s jurisdiction mean that it cannot presently act with regard to some of the dire crises of the day in states that are not parties, by acting where it can, the ICC reinforces the demand for justice far beyond its own cases.

  1. A strong and effective ICC can also act as a catalyst for other justice efforts, expanding the reach of accountability. These  could include  serious  cases  of  corruption  by  state  actors  that  severely compromise the development efforts of countries and throw citizens into greater poverty. These could also include cases of illicit financial flows where countries are complicit and obstruct repatriation of stolen assets.

As the African Union Champion on Anti-corruption, these are issues dear to my heart.

  1. The twenty years of the Court’s existence have witnessed several challenges, some of which had threatened the very existence of the Court itself. Most notable were the withdrawals and threats of withdrawals of membership of the Court by some States, as well as accusations of bias in the exercise of the jurisdiction of the Court.

Thankfully, the Court has addressed these challenges in a dignified and commendable way.

Nonetheless, the Court needs to take on board all constructive criticisms and allay lingering fears and concern through targeted messaging, awareness raising and possible modification of some legal provisions.  If properly articulated, communication and awareness raising would surely engender trust and encourage greater cooperation of Member States with the Court and even encourage non – Member States to decide to become Members. It must avoid even a hint of bias or political motivations.

I therefore urge all States not to politicize the decisions of  the  Court  but  to  always  bear  in  mind  the  rationale  for  the establishment of the Court in the first place. I urge all States that have not yet done so to, as a matter of deliberate State policy, accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court so that it can become a universal treaty.

  1. Nigeria has cooperated with, and supported the Court at all times. This, we have demonstrated by our full and transparent cooperation on matters on which we are being investigated and also in our several Country statements at the sessions of the Court. Our cooperation with the Court is borne out of our strong belief in the respect for the rule of law and human rights, and in our firm commitment to the sanctity of fundamental freedoms at international and domestic levels, as ingrained in the objectives for establishing the Court.

In conclusion, let me intimate you that Nigeria is preparing to conduct general elections in 2019.  Contrary to the tragic incidents that characterized the 2011 general elections in Nigeria which necessitated preliminary investigations by the International Criminal Court, I assure you that all hands are on deck to prevent any recurrence of such tragic incidents.We shall do everything possible to ensure that Nigeria witnesses the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections in 2019.

The occasion was graced by high-level representatives of more than 30 States including representatives of national Senates and Parliaments, Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Justice, as well as officials of international and regional organisations, civil society and academia. Speakers reiterated their support to justice and accountability for the gravest crimes listed under the Rome Statute.

Adopted on 17 July 1998, the Rome Statute is the ICC’s founding treaty, ratified by over 120 countries. The ICC is the first permanent international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, namely war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression.

Join The Conversation