The African Bar Association, the preeminent continental body of lawyers led by a Nigerian Barrister Hannibal Uwaifo as President, has issued a statement clarifying that the Nigerian candidate for the International Criminal Court (ICC) December 2020 elections, Hon Justice Ishaq Usman Bello, is indeed eminently qualified for the position he seeks, alongside his equally qualified peers from Africa for that exalted judicial selection, guided by the applicable Rome Statute as signed by member countries.
In a statement signed by the body’s Director of Press Affairs, Barr Heredia Siki of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and released in Cairo, Egypt, they said, “we are disturbed by the largely uninformed negative narratives, particularly projected from Nigeria to the international media arena, sequencing the African chosen nominees for the ICC bench, in manners that are inconsistent with the intendment and stipulations of the Rome Statute, the only relevant protocol over guiding the process”.
For the records, the criteria for nominations and election as a Judge of the ICC is procedurally insulated from mundane political colourations, and as its dedicated continental partner for years, we pay delicate attentions to all processes leading to those elections, highly conscious that Africa and Africans, remain the central theatre of its prosecutorial mandate.
Correctly situated, the august Advisory Committee of the ICC, that processed our five notable and highly qualified African candidates, found Justice Maria Samba of Sierra Leone as “very qualified”, while Justices Ishaq Usman Bello of Nigeria, Raymond Soch of the Gambia Supreme Court, Aisse Tall of Senegal, and Prosper Milanelou of Congo were “formally qualified”, meaning that the coast is clear for all five to proceed to the final stage of elections, where every member of the decisive Assembly of state parties, will cast their votes as dictated by their strategic interests, influence and persuasion. The issue of the Advisory Committee’s categorisation as “very qaulified” and “formally qualified” is what it is, purely an advisory nomenclature, not a supervening criteria or disabling barrier to any of them.
Consequently, Nigeria’s Justice Bello with his productive career antecedents in Nigeria and overseas is as qualified and ready to have his day come the election date, and he with other Africans deserve the bold face that comes from within as our distinguished and colorful African flag flyers.
We are glad and indeed proud of all, and urge our patriotic African stakeholders to mobilise massively behind these candidates, knowing that they will be competing with nominees from other jurisdictions like Europe, Asia, and even North America who were as well “formally qualified”.
It is pertinent to note also that, nominations of Judges into ICC are based first on personal expression of interest by the Judge concerned, to the State parties for formal endorsement, and no consideration whatsoever is attached or gained by political or religious desserts. So Justice Bello having expressed his interest, and having obtained the routine affirmative confidence of his government, the seal of capacity and competence is complete with his declaratory and unequivocal pre-qualification to the elections stage proper. For a jurist worth his weight in labour, experience and sacrifice, the least he should get are prayers and support, certainly not insinuations and innuendoes that are either emotionally misdirected or politically disconnected, targeted to chirp away from his legal and moral stature in this humble quest to serve humanity at a wider global judicial family, the body concluded.