International Criminal Court: setbacks and failures

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Created in 2002, the International Criminal Court vowed to deliver justice to the victims of the world's worst war crimes but so far it has made few convictions and faced serious difficulties.

Here is a recap of some emblematic cases:

- Laurent Gbagbo -

On January 15, 2019 the ICC acquitted former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo of crimes against humanity after seven years on remand in The Hague.

The ICC also acquited Gbagbo's youth leader Charles Ble Goude.

Gbagbo had been on trial for post-election fighting in 2010-2011 that left more than 3,000 people dead, after he refused to accept defeat in the presidential election.

The first former head of state to stand trial at the ICC, he was acquitted because "the prosecution has failed to satisfy the burden of proof to the requisite standard".

- Jean-Pierre Bemba -

Former Democratic Republic of Congo vice president and ex-warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba was sentenced in 2016 to 18 years behind bars for atrocities committed by his rebel army in the Central African Republic in 2002-2003.

But in a shock reversal, the ICC on June 9, 2018 overturned its decision and acquitted Bemba on appeal of war crimes.

In a scathing assessment, the appeal judges said Bemba was "erroneously" convicted for specific criminal acts and the trial judges were wrong in finding that he could prevent crimes being committed by his troops.

He made a triumphant return to Kinshasa on August 1 after spending 10 years on remand in The Hague, and announced he would run for president.

Bemba was nonetheless barred from running due to a separate ICC conviction he received in 2017 for corruption and bribery.

- Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto -

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was indicted by the ICC for his alleged involvement in deadly 2007-2008 post-election violence.

He faced five charges including murder, rape and deportation for allegedly masterminding the violence in which prosecutors say more than 1,300 people died and 600,000 were displaced.

In October 2014 Kenyatta became the first sitting head of state to appear before the ICC.

But in December, after a marathon four-year investigation littered with allegations of witness intimidation, bribery and false testimony, the court dropped its charges, citing the disappearance of witnesses and lack of evidence and cooperation from the Kenyan authorities.

In April 2016 the ICC also dropped charges against Kenyan Vice President William Ruto and radio host Joshua Arap Sang in the same investigation.

ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda cited a "relentless" campaign of victim intimidation.

- Omar al-Bashir -

The ICC issued two arrest warrants in 2009 and 2010 for Sudan President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity during the conflict in the western region of Darfur, where more than 300,000 people have died since 2003, according to the UN.

Despite the warrants, Bashir, in power since 1993, continues to travel abroad and has taken part in various regional summits, including in South Africa and Jordan -- both ICC members that have refused to arrest him saying he has immunity as a head of state.

- Accusations of racism -

Most cases brought to the ICC have involved African countries, leading to accusations of racism directed at the tribunal.

In its defence, the ICC has said many of the complaints it has received have come from African governments.

In October 2016 South Africa announced it would withdraw from the ICC, dealing a major blow to the institution.

"There is a view in Africa that the ICC in choosing who to prosecute has seemingly preferred to target leaders in Africa," said Justice Minister Michael Masutha.

A year later South Africa backtracked on its decision.

In 2017, under investigation for suspected crimes against humanity in which 1,200 people were said to have died, Burundi became the first country to withdraw from the ICC.

"The ICC has shown itself to be a political instrument and weapon used by the West to enslave" other states, said presidential office spokesman Willy Nyamitwe.