Tanzania elections: Why Chadema hasn’t filed a case at the ICC

Monday January 11 2021

Tanzanian opposition leader Tundu Lissu poses during an interview with AFP at his home in Tienen, on November 14, 2020. PHOTO | AFP


Dar es Salaam,

Politician Tundu Lissu, who was a presidential candidate in the 2020 general election in Tanzania, on Saturday said the Chadema opposition party has not filed a case at International Criminal Court (ICC) because it lacks the legal mandate to do so.

Mr Lissu, who is the party's vice chair, said member states which are signatories to the Rome Statues and the ICC chief prosecutor are the only ones with the legal mandate to file cases at The Hague-based court.

The politician, who spoke during a virtual debate, further said the process could face serious challenges from members of the United Nations Security Council that have veto powers.

Mr Lissu said, however, that Chadema has submitted evidence on incidents that could qualify as crimes against humanity that were committed targeting members of the opposition.

Attorney-General Adelardus Kilangi recently denied being aware of the ICC processes referred to by Chadema’s national chairman Freeman Mbowe.


Types of crimes

Mr Lissu said the ICC, which was established in 1999, registered four types of cases including those related to genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression.

“It is up to the chief prosecutor to determine whether our evidence conforms to Article 7 and 17 of the Rome Statute that describe types of crimes and whether they have sufficient gravity,” he said.

He said sufficient gravity is measured by the number of victims, the quality of the crime and the type of defendants.

“We have listed incidents of killings, assassination attempts on me in Dodoma, disappearances, remands and wounding, and provided the quality, perpetrators and their statements for the chief prosecutor to [use to make determinations],” he said.

He added, “However, these are preliminary stages, the case is not expected today or tomorrow because there are procedures that have to be followed."

While detailing the procedures, the former president of the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) said that upon being satisfied with the evidence, the chief prosecutor may travel to the country for further gratification.

UNSC's approval

However, the prosecutor will finally be required to seek the approval of the United Nations Security Council that has 15 members, with the UK, US, Russia, France and China holding veto powers.

“The challenge is that all the five members with veto powers are supposed to accept in order for the case to be filed, which is a really huge challenge,” admitted the former firebrand Singida East lawmaker.

According to him, apart from the demand for immense support, alleged offences have to be substantiated because not all killings are crimes against humanity.

He explained that for crimes to qualify as being against humanity, a certain group of people must be targeted. He also noted that the crimes should spread and be repetitive, systematic and executed against identifiable groups.

Withdrawal of membership

Responding to a question on what the case would be if the country withdrew its ICC membership, like it did from the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (AfCHPR) based in Arusha, Mr Lissu said that will not help.

“The country will be dealt with regardless of its membership status, based on the international customary laws and traditions that prohibit incidents of aggression, war crimes and crime against humanity,” he said.

The politician said Tanzania has signed several international treaties, which could be another reason for it to continue facing trials even if it withdraws from the court.

During the debate, lawyer Jebra Kambole said the ICC chief prosecutor may also launch an investigation by herself, as was the case in Kenya, Burundi and Georgia.

“The chief prosecutor may launch investigations in areas including forced disappearances and arbitrary detention, including incidents that don’t meet international standards and which governments are not ready or are unwilling to investigate,” he said.