Sierra Leone is currently witnessing a surge of discussions and debates surrounding a purported “Confidential Letter” sent by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to the President of Sierra Leone. This development has gained attention both on social media platforms and in mainstream media outlets. Lyndon Ponnie, a Liberian journalist who’s in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, reports on the matter.
The ICC has not officially addressed or commented on the existence or contents of the letter thus far. The alleged letter’s nature and implications remain subject to speculation and conjecture.
A Sierra Leonean diaspora group based in Europe is claiming credit for writing and complaining to President Bio on the prevailing situation in the country for which it said the ICC has allegedly written President Julius Maada Bio.
Purported Letter from the ICC to Pres. Bio
The latest debates have divided the country, just a few months after controversial elections.
The mandate of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is to investigate, prosecute, and try individuals charged with the most serious crimes of concern to the international community. These crimes include genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. The ICC is a permanent and independent judicial institution, established by the Rome Statute, which is an international treaty adopted in 1998 and entered into force in 2002.
The ICC’s jurisdiction extends to crimes committed on the territory of states that have ratified the Rome Statute, as well as crimes committed by nationals of those states regardless of where the crimes took place.
The Court can exercise jurisdiction if the state itself is unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out the investigation and prosecution of the alleged crimes. In the instant case, it is not clear what the ICC wants from President Bio, if it is proven the letter is genuine.
International Criminal Court (ICC) letter
A confidential letter from the prosecutor to a sitting president would depend on the specific context and content of the letter. ICC experts say generally, a confidential letter from the prosecutor to a sitting president could be related to an ongoing investigation or potential criminal charges against individuals within the president’s jurisdiction.
Confidentiality is often maintained to protect the integrity of the investigation and the privacy of the individuals involved.
It is not uncommon for prosecutors to communicate with high-ranking officials or heads of state in the course of their work, especially when it pertains to matters of international criminal law, the experts maintained.
The Sierra Leonean government seems to play down the debates; while others said the communication is fake.