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The relevance and effectiveness of the International Criminal Court has been criticised by global legal experts as it marks 20 years 

of existence.

An international conference at Kenyatta University expressed concerns over the effectiveness, legitimacy and ability of the court to deal with many cases.

 The two-day event brings together regional and international stakeholders in academia, civil society organisations and other entities.

Solicitor General Kennedy Ogeto, who opened the conference on behalf of the Attorney General, said it is time the member states came up with ways of making the ICC relevant amid claims of bias and failure to serve justice. 

“The criticism and attacks on the ICC are a reflection of the impact of the court in promoting international rule of law and its ability to deliver, which has been seen to be wanting,” Ogeto said.

He said for better part of the 20 years, the ICC has been dogged with accusations of illegitimacy, bias and ineffectiveness.

Ogeto said the court has, however, greatly contributed to bringing order in member states, including Kenya, saying the court deterred the would-be perpetrators of violence after the 2013 and 2018 general elections in the country.

He said the ICC is likely to be on its death bed unless measures are taken to redeem it.

“The ICC has been accused of being biased against Africa and as a result, many African countries have threatened to withdraw membership. There have been only three convictions over the last 20 years, all from Africa and two acquittals,” the solicitor general said.

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He said Burundi has pulled out of the statute and countries like Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and South Africa have threatened to exit. Proposals to create a court only for African countries is being contemplated, Ogeto said.

He said majority of the court’s cases ended up without conviction due to poor investigations and insufficient evidence and hence the need for it to reform, especially in its prosecution and witness protection units. 

Ogeto suggested a complete overhaul of the ICC’s prosecution, which he said suffers from deficiency to conduct proper investigations, and its prosecutorial strategies so as to enhance evidence gathering for the purpose of justice service to victims of atrocity crimes.

“Floppy investigations and insufficiency of evidence are to blame for the cases whose charges have been withdrawn and ending without convictions,” he said.

Ogeto said African countries need to build capacity of their judicial systems to deal with crimes as it makes it easier for local prosecutors to investigate cases rather than foreigners.

He proposed that the international court should not just deal with suspects with highest responsibility but also low-level perpetrators as a deterrent to serious international crimes, including terrorists.

“Mid and low-level perpetrators are often not the targets of ICC prosecutions, yet their prosecution is as critical in ending impunity and securing justice for the victims,” Ogeto said.

KU vice chancellor Paul Wainaina said the conference provides the world with a rare chance to improve on the operations at the ICC.

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