Nigerian Chile Eboe-Osuji has emerged as the president of the International Criminal Court (ICC) becoming the first African to hold such position, and admirably the second alumni of the Nigerian Law School currently holding a major position at the ICC. This lends some credence to the excellence of the legal education in Nigeria.
Mr Eboe-Osuji was elected as the 4th president of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for a three-year term until 2021. He was elected alongside Robert Fremr from the Czech Republic as First Vice-President and Marc Perrin de Brichambaut form France as the Second Vice-President. He replaces Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi whose time has ended.
“I am deeply honoured to have been elected by my peers as President of the International Criminal Court. As I take up my duties, I feel encouraged that I am able to rely on the wide experience of the two Vice-Presidents, Judge Robert Fremr and Judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, both of whom I have closely worked with previously,” the Imo state-born Judge stated in his acceptance speech.
Eboe-Osuji, though relatively unknown in the Nigerian legal system, bagged his law degree at the University of Calabar and went on to the Nigerian Law School, Lagos to be called to the Nigerian Bar in 1986 (The current Prosecutor at the ICC, Mrs Fatou Bensouda of the Gambia, was also called to the Bar at the law school in Lagos). Eboe-Osuji has served as Legal Advisor to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, a position he held since 2010 and was previously Head of Chambers for the Prosecution at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. He is a very experienced International Criminal Prosecutor and widely published academic. During his time at the United Nations, he led the writing of submissions to the European Court of Human Rights and the United States Supreme Court.
The new president of the Hague-based tribunal, which was established to prosecute individuals for international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, wants collaboration among member states and groups in order to achieve the mandate of the organisation. “I look forward to working together with them [the Vice-Presidents] as well as with all the judges, all the Officials and the staff of the Court in a spirit of collegiality. I also look forward to collaborating with the Assembly of States Parties, civil society and the international community at large, acting together to strengthen and reinforce the Rome Statute system, the 20th anniversary of the adoption of which we celebrate this year.”
According to the ICC, his role as part of the presidency will involve “providing strategic leadership to the ICC as a whole. The Presidency coordinates with the other organs and seeks the concurrence of the Prosecutor on matters of mutual concern.”
Nigeria has always collaborated with the United Nations on international law, enforcement mechanisms and other interventionist actions. The country is also a signatory to the Rome Statute setting up the ICC. This kind of constant participation in the international space has given Nigerians like Eboe-Osuji the opportunity to hold such a position.
Eboe-Osuji’s appointment also places much focus on the nature of criminal cases presently at the ICC. The ICC has before now been accused of having an anti-African bias; of the 10 cases of armed conflicts at the ICC presently, 9 of them are African much to the chagrin of African leaders. Many of these leaders feel there’s an unfair focus on Africa, when leaders of some countries outside the continent are also seemingly guilty of war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Eboe-Osuji, whose notable cases in International Crime involve the Special court for Sierra Leone, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the current genocide case against Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, has a lot of experience in cases that involve Africa. Hence, there is the possibility that his appointment could be part of a plan to wrap up the pending African cases at the ICC, and focus on other human rights violations around the world.