By Niklas Jakobsson
In a flurry of events last week, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta went from a man indicted by the International Criminal Court to – at least some argue – the image of the ICC’s demise. On Wednesday 3 December, Trial Chamber IV(b) issued an ultimatum to the Office of the Prosecutor: drop the charges against President Kenyatta or show an ‘improved evidentiary basis’. With a week until the deadline expired, I started gathering reactions and thoughts for a Hubble on Monday.
Friday’s decision to drop the charges (without prejudice) came as a shock, and speculation on what the OTP would due swiftly became a full-blown evaluation of everything the ICC stands for. Headlines read everything from ‘A Court’s Collapse’ to ‘Did Kenya get justice at the ICC?’. Putting it mildly – opinions were split.
If you’ve had time to follow entertainment news in the last week, you might’ve heard about several attempts by celebrities to ‘break the Internet’. Whilst the Kenyatta decision didn’t break the Internet, it saw my Twitter explode with reactions.
The first question that arose was whether ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had made the right call in withdrawing the charges.
Score one for Bensouda. But calls for accountability started to crawl out of the cracks soon after. Despite the case being brought forward by former prosecutor Ocampo, with him out of the picture the burden of blame seems to fall heavily on Bensouda’s shoulders.
Leaving Twitter behind and jumping head-first into the overwhelming amount of substantial reactions (those which wouldn’t fit in 140 characters), there were several interesting viewpoints that were expressed from all over the world. The topic of the ICC focusing on Africa has been debated several times over, and that relationship could take another big blow after the decision to drop all charges against Kenyatta. Peter Kagwanja believes that the ICC’s reputation in Africa is far worse than it was just a week ago.
“It is, no doubt, a most devastating blow to the credibility of the court as the supreme symbol of international justice. With the collapse the case, the ICC has even a harder task, reversing the now widely held view in Africa, as elsewhere, that it is an instrument of advancing the hegemony of powerful nations.”
In an opinion piece for Al Jazeera, Patrick Gathara brings up the question of blame. Whether it is Ocampo, Bensouda, the ICC or the Kenyan government – blame for the failed trial will have to land on someone’s plate.
“The prosecution has blamed many of its woes on the Kenyan government’s failure to cooperate on requests for evidence as well as what appeared to be a concerted campaign of intimidation resulting in an unprecedented rate of withdrawal and disappearance of witnesses. However, while acknowledging that the obstructive conduct of the government had compromised the prosecution’s ability to thoroughly investigate the charges and the court’s ability to discharge its mandate, the judges have squarely pointed the finger at the prosecutor.”
What is better than having a great defence team? According to George Kegoro, it might be having the full power of the country you are ruling fighting your corner.
“It is clear that President Kenyatta used the Kenyan state as a shield against his personal trial before the ICC, deploying the country’s diplomatic and financial resources in that direction.”
In a search to get answers to all the questions floating around, I turned to Mark Kersten’s piece for Justice Hub.
“Yes, the move to open an investigation proprio motu was audacious. Yes, the way the investigations were built deserve severe criticism and require introspection. Yes, the ICC got burned – politically and legally. But, no, the court should not revert back to the easy approach of siding with the powerful actors and selectively targeting the enemies of governments and Security Council member states.”
- Was justice served with the Kenyatta decision?
- What impact will this decision have on the ICC’s legitimacy?
- Is it fair to blame Bensouda for the demise of the trial?
Want to read more? Here are a few additional opinion pieces and comments on last week’s events:
Lead image: Brandon Reynolds is a cartoonist who works for Cartoon Movement
The Weekly Hubble features the most popular or controversial international justice story of the past week and reactions on social media to the news.