Buhari’s nominee to ICC, Usman Bello ranked low by selection panel

President Muhammadu Buhari's nominee to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Ishaq Usman Bello, may not be selected as judge.

Buhari had nominated Bello, the chief judge of the federal capital territory (FCT) high court as Nigeria’s candidate for ICC judge in June 2020.

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.

Although Bello has a master’s degree in international criminal law from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, “where his dissertation was on the topic of individual criminal responsibility under the Rome Statute”, the ICC noted that “the candidate appeared notably to have a very limited knowledge of the Rome Statute, the practices and procedures of the court and its jurisprudence”.

"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, and bearing in mind particularly his lack of detailed knowledge of the workings of the court, the committee concluded that the candidate was only formally qualified for appointment as judge of the International Criminal Court,” the report read.

Owing to the COVID -19 pandemic, the committee had conducted virtual interviews between August 12 and August 28 for all the nominees.

Out of 20 candidates, 10 were ranked “highly qualified”, three were “qualified” while seven including Bello were “formally qualified”.

Bello presided over the infamous ‘Apo six’ case which involved the extrajudicial murder of six persons by policemen in Abuja.

The judge sentenced two policemen to death but acquitted the officer who reportedly gave the order, a move which attracted criticisms.

Only six judges will be elected to fill in one-third of the court’s 18 judicial seats.

Currently, the only Nigerian on the ICC’s list of 18 judges is Justice Chile Eboe-Osuji.

The elections which are scheduled for the 19th session of the assembly of states parties will be held at the United Nations, New York, from December 7 to December 17, 2020.

The ICC which began functioning on July 1, 2002, is an intergovernmental organisation and international tribunal which has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.

The ICC sits at The Hague, Netherlands. The court, however, lacks universal territorial jurisdiction, and may only investigate and prosecute crimes committed within member states, nationals of member states, or crimes in situations referred to the court by the United Nations security council.

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