Top lawyer Kaufman challenges ICC, supra-national legal bodies

HARARE - A number of legal and supra-national bodies need reform as they often act purely on “intelligence rather than evidence”, a top international lawyer has suggested.

Nick Kaufman, a barrister whose name was introduced to the Zimbabwean market by controversial millionaire Frank Buyanga, singled out the International Criminal Court (ICC), Interpol and United Nations sanctions committee for his criticism, saying they often disadvantaged several accused persons and sovereign countries.

While the Hague-based ICC was “too Afro-centric”, the latter two risked trampling defendants’ rights by arresting and sanctioning people or member countries on the basis of information provided by “interested parties” — in most cases complaining governments — and without affording the affected parties appeal rights.

“A distinction between these supra-national bodies is that the ICC will, at least, go for court processes or actions after reviewing evidence, whereas those facing UN asset bans (and partly Interpol) have no access to records (so as to review what would have been provided by their opponents) and appeal,” Kaufman told CNBC Africa recently, adding “aggrieved parties were often shooting in the dark”.

A former ICC prosecutor-turned-defence attorney, the Israeli national also touched on Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta’s impending trial by the human-crimes organ, saying it “was weak and made from legs of straw”.

“Kenya is a bit of a special case because, unlike the other African situations on the docket of the ICC, the (Kenyan) situation is really forced upon Kenya as a result of the (ex) prosecutor (Louis Moreno OCampo)’s pro pio motive,” Kaufman said, suggesting further that the charges against Kenyatta had been initiated to target the Nairobi leader.

“I am not privy to any of the evidence (against Kenyatta), but from what I have read… it doesn’t seem like the most professional methodology was used (in bringing up or gathering the evidence),” the Netherlands-based counsel said, adding it was not only Africans who were critical of the global body’s prosecutorial office, but the courts themselves.

But even, though, the perception about African-bias was dominant, it does not mean that the ICC was entirely corrupt and unnecessary, as it had “also dismissed cases against African defendants”, the feisty lawyer observed.

A former representative of Saad Gaddafi — the playboy son of ex-Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and in his extradition battle from the Niger — Kaufman said relations between the Hague-based institution and Africa were expected to improve following the appointment of Fatou Bensouda as head prosecutor.

Meanwhile, the top international barrister insists his client Buyanga had been a victim of political persecution after making a $70 000 loan to a high-ranking government official and Zanu PF minister.

“(I represent)…Mr Buyanga, who has been made essentially a victim of the Zimbabwe justice system. He operated a successful property acquisition business, but unfortunately, he came into contact with one of the officials in… government and… after making that loan he found himself subject to reinstated criminal investigation, which was a follow-up by some disgruntled clients,” Kaufman said.

This comes as the Daily News had reported in early May that the 33-year-old Buyanga had hired the seasoned lawyer to fight an Interpol arrest warrant issued in the aftermath of this Zimbabwean fallout.

Kaufman was not only quoted as saying he was confident of a positive outcome since the red notice decision was erroneously arrived at, but his client was being unfairly hounded, especially after he had been cleared by the police and courts three years ago.

According to Wikipedia, Interpol red notices are issued for members to share information on wanted persons and when these individuals’ names come to the attention of other jurisdictions, the requesting authority is instantly notified. And when this happens, a request for provisional arrest or extradition request is made.

While there are seven categories of these notices — from red to purple — Interpol only publishes notices “if they satisfy all conditions for processing” and are not in violation of such statues as Article 3 of its Constitution, which prohibits action or intervention based on political, military, religious or racial persecution.

Although the self-styled financier and property investor, and his companies were given the all-clear, Buyanga relocated to South Africa in 2010 — where he still runs the risk of incarceration should he travel.

His lawyer, who has reportedly prepared a 70-page dossier to fight the international notices, remains adamant that his client never intended to deprive anyone of their property or assets.

“I challenge anyone to come forward with a paper or documentation, which talks about interest rates or anything usurious. Nothing can be further from the truth that Buyanga and his businesses were involved in loan-sharking activities,” he said then.

In recent times, Buyanga has scored two legal victories after the Supreme Court dismissed an application by Tonderai Tarima for the reversal of the sale of a Borrowdale property and a deeds registry employee — regarded as central to his prosecution.

The flamboyant businessman counts, among his friends, Equatorial Guinea president Theodore Obiang Nguema and ex-Malawian leader Bakili Muluzi. - Staff Writer

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