The first African Director General of the World Health Organization and former member of the TPLF, Dr. Tedros Adhanom is facing potential prosecution at the International Criminal Court following a complaint by David Stienman. To give clarity on the matter, the American TV producer and author of the book Money, Blood and Conscience held a press conference at the Hague Nieuwspoort on Monday November 30, 2020 regarding the details of the complaint also responding to questions from attendants regarding the matter.
According to David, he has had no interaction regarding the matter with the Ethiopian authorities saying “.. I had no coordination with the Ethiopian government or any contact with them in fact” also stressing that he also does not work with any other government. According to Stienman, Dr. Tedros is facing charges of crimes against humanity and genocide, he stated that the Director General of the WHO failed to take steps to ensure the crimes committed by the TPLF led administration during his active engagement in local politics.
Regarding jurisdiction, Stienman ruled out diplomatic immunity because the ICC defendants do not enjoy the above privilege. According to Stienman, important principles in international law such as the effects doctrine - where the ICC assumes jurisdiction whenever the actions of the defendant affect other countries - and the ad hoc jurisdiction principle in which the ICC can have jurisdiction over whenever the country requests jurisdiction may apply to the current case. Stienmann said “I would like to take this opportunity to publicly call on Ethiopian prime minister Abiy to make that request of the prosecutor” in explaining the necessity of the request from the Ethiopian authorities in order to make sure the court has jurisdiction on the current case.
Regarding other members of the TPLF, Stienman recalled that despite him trying to include them in the complaint, he removed these names because of the arrest warrant issued by the Ethiopian government against most of the TPLF leadership following the conflict in the Tigray region. Stienman did not rule out adding more names in the future.
In the press conference, the author said that he has seen the TPLF commit routine genocide and atrocities aided by the lack of accountability in the country saying “I had 27 seven years in which to study and observe the TPLF” and speaking of his observation in the capacity of Adviser to Ethiopian Opposition Parties starting with Dr. Asrat Woldeyes, he said “I saw that from 2013 - 2016, he [Dr. Tedros ] was the smiling public face of this murderous dictatorship” asserting that because the head of the WHO was a very important decision maker who was a part of the TPLF executive committee as well as being the third in charge during the period between 2013 and 2016. “An international criminal is running the world’s most important global health organization at a time where public confidence and trust in its advice are vital” stating that it's globally risky to allow Dr. Tedros to run the organization at a time like this also criticizing the vetting procedures that require reexamination according to him. The next steps are highly dependent on the Ethiopian government, according to Steinman because a formal request to the ICC is necessary for the court to have ad hoc or temporary jurisdiction over the matter.
The International Criminal Court is subject to immense criticism by African nations for allegedly targeting African leaders and heads of state in the past, prompting ideas of mass-exodus from the ICC from the leadership of the African Union. Addis Zeybe talked to different academicians and experts to better understand the substantive and procedural aspects of the above complaint made against the International Criminal Court.
Dejene Yemane - a lecturer of international law at Wollo University - believes the timing of the complaint is interesting. “The TPLF is not what it was in the past anymore. The Federal government has weakened its political influence in and out of Ethiopia immensely following the events of the past month.” said Dejene stating that there is a possibility that the ICC might try the current case because he was an active member of the TPLF leadership, whose protection (politically speaking) has dwindled exponentially. “There is a chance that this could be politically motivated. The timing is just too perfect to consider this a coincidence.” Dejene told Addis Zeybe reaffirming his suspicion that this could be a successful complaint. With regards to the ICC’s questionable interaction with the African continent Dejene told Addis Zeybe that this is a continuation of a trend by the ICC saying “Despite constant criticism, the current case shows that the ICC has not changed much of its ways in terms of diplomacy with the African Union and its member states.” The ICC has been constantly criticized for targeting African leaders, despite there being a lot of debate on the merit of the allegation.
“He [Stienman] knows he probably won’t succeed” said Yonas Birmeta (PHD) - an expert in international law at Addis Ababa University who has varying opinions than Dejene about the likelihood of the complaint being successful at the ICC. “If you recall, in 2011, Libya refused to accept the arrest warrant against Muhammar Ghadafi claiming that it will hold him accountable in accordance with national law.” Yonas continues. “At the time Libya was in a much worse condition in terms of administering justice locally. Ethiopia is a much stronger nation in terms of this.” said Yonas stating that it would be unlikely for the Ethiopian authorities to request for an Ad-hoc jurisdiction on the matter allowing the principle of exhaustion of local remedies to take precedent consequently taking jurisdiction away from the court.
“The court is also governed by the principle of complementarity which requires it to play the role of supporting states. For example the ICC cannot assume jurisdiction over the cases of those with arrest warrants issued on them already. It allows the national courts to do their job.” said Yonas telling Addis Zeybe that he believes the intentions behind the complaint are to shade the spotlight on the alleged crimes of the Director General as he said “It is very unlikely this would go any further in my experience of international law.”
The International criminal Court was established in July 1, 2002 by the Rome Statutes giving it jurisdiction over persons who commit an exhaustive list of crimes which are listed as genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crime of aggression on Article 5 of the statute. The principle of complementarity is at the heart of the ICC and other international and regional courts as well as human rights bodies within the UN and regional systems. According to this principle, the ICC can only have a jurisdiction over criminal cases said to have been committed in the territorial jurisdiction of a given state if and only if the government of that particular state is unwilling or unable to prosecute the perpetrator/s of the alleged crime provided that the state is a party to Rome Statute giving the court a gap filling or complementary role. Like any treaty body, the ICC has primary jurisdiction over individuals from member states to the Rome Statutes. Ethiopia is not one. However, procedures such as the effects doctrine (The case of Myanmar) and the principle of AD-Hoc jurisdiction which relates to a jurisdiction over an individual from a non-party state whenever the country requests the individual be tried by the criminal court. The international criminal court is located in the Hague, Netherlands where its detention center is also located. The court has thus far convicted eight persons of the crimes under Article 5 of the statute including Fidele Babala Wandu , Jean-Pierre Bemba and Germain Katanga of DRC as well as Narcisse Arido from the Central African Republic.
This article was cowritten by Abdullahi Abdulkadir