On Thursday, the International Criminal Court, ICC, formally responded to a case filed against Cameroonian President Paul Biya, 87, on May 21 of last year.
Based on the atrocities committed by state forces in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon as they fight armed separatists, a concerned Cameroonian seized the ICC for redress.
In a writing from The Hague, Mark P. Dillon, head of the Information and Evidence Unit, Office of the Prosecutor, said the complaint against President Biya and his regime was filed by Leonel Beteck Kome.
In view of the defined jurisdiction of the Court, the Office of the Prosecutor argues, after more than a year of deliberations, that serious allegations will be beyond its reach.
“I note in this regard that the ICC is designed to complement and not replace national jurisdictions. So, if you want to explore this issue further, you can consider raising it with the relevant national or international authorities, ”the ICC Prosecutor said in a dispatch from the Information and Evidence Unit.
The preliminary decision in case OTP-CR-218/19) read: “As you may be aware, the International Criminal Court (‘the ICC’ or ‘the Court’) is governed by the Statute of Rome, which gives the Court a very specific and carefully defined jurisdiction and mandate. A fundamental feature of the Rome Statute (Articles 12 and 13) is that the Court can only exercise jurisdiction over international crimes if (i) its jurisdiction has been accepted by the State in whose territory the crime has been committed. committed, (ii) its jurisdiction has been accepted by the State of which the accused person is a national, or (iii) the situation is referred to the Prosecutor by the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations .
“Based on the information currently available, it appears that none of these prerequisites are met regarding the behavior described. Accordingly, given that the allegations appear to fall outside the jurisdiction of the Court, the Prosecutor has confirmed that there is no need for a further analysis at this time. The information you have submitted will be kept in our records, and the decision not to prosecute may be reconsidered if new facts or evidence provide a reasonable basis for believing that the allegations are within the jurisdiction of the Court. The decision may also be reviewed if there is acceptance of jurisdiction by the States concerned or referral from the Security Council. I filed with the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC on May 21, 2019,
The affair has stopped, but the hopes remain alive!
The plaintiff, Leonel Beteck Kome, told Mimi Mefo Info that Thursday’s ICC decision is only preliminary as the case remains open with a possible review based on at least one of certain preconditions.
“The requirement of at least one of these preconditions is the only obstacle to the continuation of the case. Thus, the case was temporarily stopped and rendered inactive, with the possibility of reactivation, ”he said.
Beteck Kome says there are still ways for the ICC to take the matter further.
“A referral to the United Nations Security Council would automatically confer jurisdiction on the ICC as in the cases of Sudan, Libya, etc.”
“If the dictator Paul Biya and his collaborators who commit these war crimes and crimes against humanity are recognized as having the nationality of a signatory state under the jurisdiction of the ICC, then the case can be reactivated and prosecuted, in considering them as citizens of these signatory states with the ICC. jurisdiction.
“In this regard, I will conduct a personal investigation to determine the second nationality of these perpetrators in the Biya regime and immediately provide this information to the ICC prosecutor.”
The complainant hopes that if Cameroon one day ratifies the Rome Statute which gives the ICC direct jurisdiction; the case can be reactivated and expedited.
Beteck Kome warns: “Therefore, these perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity under the Paul Biya regime should keep in mind that they will always be prosecuted for their crimes.
“Paul Biya and his collaborators, who commit these war crimes and crimes against humanity, should now understand very clearly that the ICC now has very solid evidence revealing the commission of these flagrant crimes by the Cameroonian army under the command of the regime of Paul Biya.
“I submitted to the ICC tons of videos, images, testimonies and documents as evidence clearly showing that the Cameroonian army was perpetrating these egregious crimes, which the ICC has now kept in its archives for possible future use. .
The rule of law and human rights defender said he will continue to work hard to provide the ICC prosecutor with all the necessary information that will lead to the reactivation and further processing of the case. as mentioned above.
“I also urge all human rights defenders to make efforts to obtain justice for the thousands of innocent civilians who have been the victims of these blatant crimes in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon.”
War Crimes in Anglophone Cameroon
Hans de Marie Heungoup, Central Africa Researcher at the International Crisis Group, ICG, explains that some of the crimes reported do indeed fall within the ICC’s mandate. “There are crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC, including war crimes. When there is systematic targeting when there is repeated shooting at civilians, when schools, hospitals and entire villages are set on fire by the security forces, we think there is a war crime ” , he said.
“Crimes are being committed on both sides; the separatists kidnapped and executed dozens of civilians, but the security forces were the first to commit these crimes. And yet, it is they who were trained in academies where they received training to ensure the safety of people and their property, ”he continues. Hans de Marie Heungoup emphasizes, however, that we cannot speak, for the moment, of the crime of genocide.
There is one difficulty, however: Cameroon has not acceded to the Rome Statute and therefore does not automatically fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC. The only credible option, for now, would be for the UN Security Council to refer the matter to the Court, without one of its permanent members vetoing it.
Mimi Mefo Info recalls how soldiers burned down houses in Azi in Lebialem Division, as well as in Munyenge in Fako Division. They also admitted to burning no less than 70 homes in Mankon on May 15, 2019.
The affected localities included Alachu, Matsam and Muwatsu.
In addition to killing civilians in Pinyin, Bali and Batibo, soldiers have been charged with killing children and women, as was the case in Ngarbuh on February 14, 2020.
Experts say if Cameroon ever comes to the fore the ICC, President Biya’s regime will fall for him given the tons of evidence available.