Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Nigerian Coalition for the ICC Applauds Nomination of Justice Ishaq Bello For Election As A Judge Of The International Criminal Court, Says His Nomination One Of The Best Decisions Ever Taken By President Buhari of Nigeria



The secretariat of the Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court (NCICC) endorses and applauds the nomination of the Nigerian candidate for the International Criminal Court December 2020 elections, Honourable Justice Ishaq Usman Bello. We state that he is eminently qualified to be appointed as a judge in the International Criminal Court.


The International Criminal Court (ICC), located at The Hague, Netherlands, is composed of 18 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute. For a person to be qualified as a judge of the International Criminal Court, he must be a person of high moral character, impartiality and integrity who possesses the qualifications required in his country for appointment to the highest judicial offices. He must have either established competence in criminal law and procedure, and the necessary relevant experience, whether as a judge, prosecutor, advocate or in other similar capacity, in criminal proceedings; or have established competence in relevant areas of international law such as international humanitarian law and the law of human rights, and extensive experience in a professional legal capacity which is of relevance to the judicial work of the Court. He must be fluent in at least one of the working languages of the Court, English and French. The candidate for election to the Court needs to be national of States Parties to the Rome Statute. 


The nomination of Honourable Justice Ishaq Usman Bello by the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari into the International Criminal Court is therefore one of the best decisions taken by the government so far, as he accurately meets the criteria laid down by the ICC.


Honourable Justice Ishaq Usman Bello is a seasoned legal practitioner called to the Nigerian Bar in 1983. He has successfully been a Magistrate (of all grades), Legal adviser, Deputy Chief Registrar (Supreme Court of Nigeria), Judge (High Court, FCT) Acting Chief Judge, among others. Justice Ishaq Usman Bello, a life bencher, fellow of the Nigeria’s Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and a PhD holder from the Caribbean University amongst other honours, is currently the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Federal Capital Territory. As the Chief Judge, he aggressively pursued the de-congestion of prisons in the Federal Capital Territory. 


In 2017, he was appointed as the chairman of the Presidential Committee on Prison Reforms and De-congestion (now Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reforms and De-congestion) by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation. The Committee was tasked to lead the reform processes of the Nigerian prison system and his position in the committee gave him the rare privilege of appraising and reappraising criminals and criminal behavior at a very close range, a crucial pre-requisite for appointment as a judge of the ICC. Since the inauguration of the committee, over 3768 inmates have been released and rehabilitated. Seeing that the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction includes crimes committed in the territory of a nation state, it is manifestly clear that Justice Bello is the right man for the job.


The eminent jurist who is the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Federal Capital Territory has effectively supervised the judicial affairs of the federal capital territory with preciseness and excellence. In his bid to ensure justice is manifestly served with ease and correctness, he has computerized courts in the Federal Capital Territory and also recently created enforcement procedure rules for the Child Right Act in 2015.  The provisions set out implementation guidelines for cases involving children, making court proceedings more humane and sensitive to the needs of children.

As Chief Judge, one of his core responsibilities includes supervisory authority over the court’s judicial and administrative functions. Justice Ishaq Bello is also responsible for the assignment of cases and in the process ensures that judicial work is equally distributed. His deep knowledge and practical experience of the Court, allied to his proven leadership skills, make him uniquely qualified as a judge of the International Criminal Court.


Since his nomination as Nigeria’s candidate for the December 2020 elections of the International Criminal Court, there have been reactions trailing it. Based on both his professional experience as well as his answers during the virtual interview, the committee which screened the nominees concluded that Justice Bello is formally qualified for appointment as a judge of the International Criminal Court. However, there has been a misinterpretation of the nomenclature “very qualified” and “formally qualified”. This misinterpretation is very unnecessary as all candidates shortlisted are going to pass through an election where all members of the assembly of state parties will cast their votes for any of the candidates and those of other countries depending on their strategic choice based on a number of underlying factors. 


Honourable Justice Ishaq Usman Bello has met the formal requirements to become judge of the International Criminal Court and that is what is most important, regardless of the nomenclature used.  He therefore deserves the unwavering support of Nigerians and not negative comments and reactions.  


With over 35 years of experience as a legal practitioner and currently Chief Judge of High Court, Justice Ishaq Usman Bello is well equipped to serve as judge of the International Criminal Court. A jurist per excellence, a man with sterling records, a Pan-Africanist and a quintessential gentleman, Honourable Justice Ishaq Usman Bello is eminently qualified to be appointed a judge of the International Criminal Court.


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