Editor's note: Zainab Duke-Abiola, a professor and international coordinator, Afro- European Lawyers Union, writes on why he thinks His Lordship Justice Ishaq Usman Bello is qualified for a slot in the International Criminal Court.
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Most learned eyebrows were raised when we read the unwarranted attacks and innuendos in some newspapers targeted at one of Nigeria’s finest legal luminaries, His Lordship Justice Ishaq Usman Bello.
The “allegations” against the learned judge include his “very limited knowledge of the Rome Statute, practices and procedures of the court.”
The Rome Statute established four core crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, with no statute of limitations. The main objective of the ICC is that of participating in a global fight to end impunity and to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes thereby preventing the re-occurrence of some of the world’s most heinous crimes.
Pray, what is so befuddling about the aforementioned core crimes that a law student would fail to comprehend let alone a learned jurist of the calibre of Justice Bello?
Interestingly, the learned jurist’s Masters degree thesis was on the topic of “Individual Criminal Responsibility under the Rome Statute.”
How then could the interviewers be said to have noted that “the candidate appeared to have very limited knowledge” of the Rome Statute? Did they bother to read his Masters degree thesis? Or his Danielic wisdom in the handling of cases?
The report went further to state “Based on both his professional experience as well as his answers during the virtual interview, …the committee concluded that the candidate was only formally qualified for appointment as a judge of the International Criminal Court.” Formally qualified! This seems to be the redeeming feature.
Otherwise learned minds would have been agitating over questions like –
What virtual interview? Who were the interviewers? What are the credentials of the interviewers? Has anyone of the interviewers ever been involved in any sort of racism including institutional racism?
These questions are germane as Nigeria’s nominee, the president of the African Development Bank was ridiculed and scandalised to such an extent that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was forced to apologise to the nation. Fortunately, he is back on the saddle.
For the records, the eminent jurist has supervised the judicial affairs of the Federal Capital Territory most fairly and equitably to the admiration of all and chagrin of criminals.
Justice Ishaq Bello transcends his peers nationally as his wings of justice, laced with compassion, have spread internationally.
For instance, the learned chief judge’s achievements include the equitable administration of justice for all nationals residing in the Federal Capital Territory, computerisation of the courts and most notably the creation of the enforcement procedure rules for the Child Right Act.
He strenuously strode to decongest prisons in Abuja.
In recognition of this feat he was consequently elevated to the position of the chairmanship of the presidential committee on prison reforms and de-congestion, now presidential committee on correctional service reforms and de-congestion in Nigeria. This gave him the rare privilege of appraising and reappraising criminals and criminal behaviour at very close range, a crucial pre-requisite for appointment as a judge of the ICC.
It is worthy of note that since the inauguration of the committee, about 4000 inmates have been released and rehabilitated. To achieve this feat the learned judge and his team often navigated through the most difficult and dangerous terrains to reach their destinations. He knows the nation well. Seeing that the ICC’s jurisdiction includes crimes committed in the territory of a nation-state it would not be rocket science to state that Justice Bello is the man for the job.
A Life Bencher, Fellow of Nigeria’s Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Justice Bello holds a PhD from the Caribbean University amongst other honours and recognitions.
He was head of the committee that came up with the Administration of Criminal Justice (ACJ) Act a sine qua non for the Rule of Law in Nigeria’s nascent democratic dispensation.
Most significantly, the jurisdiction of the ICC is complementary to the jurisdictions of national or state courts. Herein is the pivot and juxtaposition of Justice Bello’s nomination- it is a national policy in the best interest of the nation in question, i.e Nigeria.
Therefore, any disparaging of a nation’s nominee is a denigration of both the domestic and foreign policy of that nation which is tantamount to international trespass and judicial palindrome.
Every day our citizens are subjected to the most harrowing experiences for being Nigerians and A. Ranging from visa ban to outright unwarranted mala fide behavioural patterns Nigerians have borne the brunt of it all.
For how long will Africa and Europeans of African descent continue to turn the other cheek in the face of this perennial often toffee-nosed jurisprudential meddlesomeness?
We, of the aforementioned organisation, have elected not to sit back and condone any further judicial tautology on the part of the ICC as it smacks of approbating and reprobating.
We shall continue to speak the truth in the overriding interest of universal justice.
Amongst the learned justice’s sterling qualities is the obvious fact of his formidable intellect – an indispensable arsenal for any judge of the International Criminal Court.
A powerhouse of multi-faceted unquantifiable knowledge, a linguist, a man for all seasons, a Pan-Africanist, a jurist per excellence and a quintessential gentleman. Honourable Justice Ishaq Bello is eminently qualified to be appointed a judge of the ICC.
To all intents and purposes, Nigeria has spoken to the world in simple language- Honourable Justice Ishaq Bello is our candidate, QED.
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