Tunisia stands good chance to secure seat in ICC (interview)
30/06/2020 21:08, TUNIS/Tunisia
(Sofien Manai/TAP) - The election of the judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will take place in December 2020 at the United Nations headquarters in New York, despite the health crisis caused by the new coronavirus.

For the first time, Tunisia is vying for a seat in this court. The term of office is nine years, non-renewable. It will be officially represented by legal expert Haykel Ben Mahfoudh, Professor of Public International Law.

With a rich professional experience in many countries in the field of Community law and Maghreb-European relations, candidate Ben Mahfoudh, born in 1971 in Tunis, is cautiously optimistic in the face of stiff competition. His application meets all the criteria required by the Court, he assures.

Ben Mahfoudh has 12 years of experience in the security reform sector and knowledge of security issues, particularly in Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon and Malta.

"Tunisia is the only Arab Spring country to pursue a democratic process and to achieve a very positive balance sheet despite shortcomings.

The country has a strong chance of winning a seat at the International Criminal Court (ICC)," the lawyer said in an interview with TAP.

For the next term of the ICC council (2020-2029), only six judges will be renewed, whereas the Court is composed of eighteen judges.

Ben Mahfoudh said he submitted his nomination to The Hague where the ICC sits last February.

Since then, a campaign for these elections has been launched both inside and outside the country, with particular emphasis on Tunisia's young democracy.

"Tunisia is well perceived abroad. Today there is a post-revolutionary civil society, counter-powers, institutions, a democratically elected parliament, a new generation of young people who are involved in politics, and spaces for protest that have flourished," he argued.

The ambitious candidate was very reassuring in the face of the issues at stake, expressing the wish to join the ICC, which he believes embodies the collective commitment to fight against impunity.

Currently, ICC judges represent the African group, Latin America and the Caribbean, Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the rest of the world, and Asia.

"The Arab world has never been represented in this jurisdiction," he regretted.

According to Ben Mahfoudh, Tunisia has repeatedly tried, without success, to integrate international judicial institutions, citing the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

On his nomination for the ICC, he said he has received the support of President Kais Saied, Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and civil society, adding that he relied heavily on the media in this regard.

Tunisian diplomacy mobilises

He said the Tunisian diplomacy has started its actions through consular missions abroad.

In this regard, he cited the Tunisian embassies in The Hague, where the ICC has its headquarters, in Addis Ababa to earn support from the African Union, and in New York, where the work of the United Nations General Assembly is taking place, without, however, omitting the diplomatic representations to ICC member countries.

Tunisian civil society and human rights organizations can also provide support, he said.

Mahfoudh said recent sanctions by the Trump administration against the International Criminal Court, its staff and any investigator cooperating with the court on Afghanistan and other cases involving U.S. allies are "intrinsically unacceptable.

These measures have been unanimously rejected by other states and civil society, including American civil society, he said.

The court is an independent and impartial judicial institution whose actions are strictly governed by the legal framework of the Rome Statute, its founding treaty.

Its main mission is to contribute to ending impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.

The ICC is an independent international organisation, not part of the United Nations system, he said.
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