ICC selection panel ranks Nigeria’s nominee, Justice Ishaq Bello, low

Justice Ishaq Usman Bello, Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, may not be selected as judge at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Justice Bello, the only Nigerian nominated for election to the International Criminal Court (ICC) jury in 2020, may have fluffed the country’s chances after a poor performance in the assessment exercise.

The ICC, headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands, prosecutes international crimes, crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, and aggression by nationals of the 123-member countries.

Advisory committee ranks Justice Ishaq Bello low for ICC job | Tribune  Online
Justice Bello

President Muhammadu Buhari had in June nominated JusticeBello for the contest. He was among the 20 nominated for the election scheduled for the 19th session of the assembly of states parties.

Apart from Bello, 19 others were nominated for the ICC job from United Kingdom, Belgium, Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, and Brazil among others.

However, in a report of the advisory committee on the nomination of judges, the ICC said Bello lacked knowledge of the workings of the court.

The report states that Justice Bello is fluent in English and knowledgeable in criminal law but seems to lack the required skill needed for the ICC job.

The advisory committee classified all nominees into four categories- highly qualified, qualified, only formally qualified and not qualified.

Justice Bello was designated as ‘only formally qualified’.

The other 19 nominees for the ICC job include- Althea Alexis-Windsor of Trinidad and Tobago (highly qualified); Khosbayor Chagdaa of Mongolia who was also designated (only formally qualified); Jasmina CosicDedovic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (highly qualified), Joanna Korner of the United Kingdom (highly qualified), Laurence Massart of Belgium (highly qualified) and Prosper Milandou of the Republic of Congo (only formally qualified).

Others include- Miatta Samba of Sierra Leone (highly qualified), Monica Sifuentes of Brazil (qualified), Raymond Sock from The Gambia (only formally qualified), Aisse Tall of Senegal (only formally qualified), Victor Tsilonis of Greece (highly qualified), Barreto Gonzalez of Colombia (only formally qualified) and Ben Mahfoudh of Tunisia (highly qualified).

The candidate of Mexico, Flores Liera was designated as highly qualified; Burkina Faso’s Gberdao Kam was described as qualified; Georgia’s Gocha Lordkipanidze was described as qualified; peralta Distefano of Uruguay (highly qualified), Salvador Crespo of Ecuador (only formally qualified), Ugalde Godinez of Costa Rica (highly qualified).

The report on the Nigerian judge read in part, “The committee noted that the candidate, currently Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria, has extensive judicial experience in criminal proceedings. The committee noted that the candidate was articulate and knowledgeable regarding criminal law and procedure at the national level.

“The committee noted that the candidate does not have direct experience in international criminal law and procedure based on his answers to questions regarding the functions and powers of pre-trial and trial chambers and the admissibility of evidence collected in violation of legal provisions, and did not have in-depth knowledge of the Rome Statute or the jurisprudence of the International Criminal Court. He demonstrated, however, good general knowledge of how a judicial body should work in a multicultural environment.

“Based on both his professional experience as well as his answers during the interview, the committee concluded that the candidate is, subject to the issue of language, only formally qualified for appointment as judge of the International Criminal Court.”

The ICC also uploaded Justice Bello’s responses to questions on its website.

Some of the questions include how he will cope with the workload of the court if appointed, perception of the court, judges’ independence, and work history.

Justice Bello, who hails from Kaduna State, attended Ahmadu Bello University and began his career in Sokoto State. He is also a former Deputy Registrar of the Supreme Court.

As contained in the statement of nomination submitted to ICC, Mr Bello has served as a magistrate, legal adviser, deputy Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court of Nigeria), judge and acting chief judge.

More so, he had served on several bar and bench committees before his appointment as a member of the National Judicial Council (NJC).

He has also held high-level positions, including chairing election petition tribunals and Presidential Committee on Prison Reforms and Decongestion (PCRD), among others. He is very familiar with the workings of the court, having led numerous Nigerian delegations to various international fora.

The ICC is an intergovernmental organisation and international tribunal that sits in The Hague, Netherlands. It is the first and only permanent international court with jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.

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