The Anti Counterfeit Network Africa (ACN ) has petitioned the International Criminal Court(ICC) to counterfeiting included among crimes against humanity.
The ACN Africa is a not-for-profit organization that aims to bridge the intervention gaps between the multiple stakeholders that affect and are being affected by counterfeits and illicit trade.
In a petition dated November, 1, 2021, the ACN Africa Director for Legal and Corporate Affairs, Fred Muwema says whereas global counterfeiting is treated as a soft crime by many, it is a slow and patient killer that accounts for more deaths than any other crimes in the world.
“Economic crimes like counterfeiting which cause indiscriminate and widespread death and bodily injury to large sections of the consumer public should be subjected to dual governance under existing intellectual property legislation and the Rome Statute,” Muwema says in the petition.
According to the petition, counterfeiting has severely distorted and impended international trade which in turn endangers the sustenance, wealth , health and security of states and their citizens but at the same time become more difficult and expensive for intellectual property holders, state regulators and consumers alike.
The Anti Counterfeit Network says global counterfeiting has all the attributes of a serious crime of international concern.
“Global counterfeiting is compounding all human problems and tragedies. It has majorly hampered all United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The fight against global counterfeiting is the fight of every state and citizen of the world.”
Crimes against humanity defined as certain acts that are purposefully committed as part of a widespread or systematic policy, directed against civilians, in times of war or peace and these acts include murder, genocide, ethnic cleansing, deportation, massacres, deportation, unethical human experimentation and extrajudicial punishments among other acts.
It however remains to be seen whether the International Criminal Court(ICC) will reason with ACN to include counterfeiting in crimes against humanity.
However, according to the Anti Counterfeit Network, its petition merits a careful interrogation by the assembly of state parties of the Rome statute.
“Currently there are over 40 armed conflicts taking place in the Middle East, North-West Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. This is the traditional breeding ground for crimes against humanity which the ICC investigates and prosecutes. The irony however is that in the last three years, all these armed conflicts combined are not responsible for half of the civilian deaths caused in one year by counterfeit and substandard medicines,” ACN says.
ACN says counterfeits are undermining global health care and the Covid fight.
“The persistent uncertainties surrounding the reliability of Covid test results and certifications continue to gather a storm of low public confidence in the much-needed efforts to fight Covid. The few reported cases of fake covid vaccines are also doing a lot to increase apprehension towards the disease and its vaccination,” Anti Counterfeit Network’s Fred Muwema says.
CAN argues that covid testing kits, protective gear, masks, and sanitisers have not been shielded from counterfeiting, a situation they say is worrying.
“WHO estimates that there are over one billion deaths annually which are caused by counterfeits and substandard drugs . This is in turn estimated to cause a negative global economic impact of more than $20 billion,” ACN says in the petition.
The Anti Counterfeit Network has asked for the amendment of Article 7 of the Rome statute to widen the scope of crimes against humanity to include economic crime of counterfeiting which involves commission of acts of widespread and indiscriminate murder of sections of the wider public.
“The humble request of the Anti-Counterfeit Network Africa is to alternatively amend article 7(1) (k) of the Rome statute by expounding on the meaning of other inhumane acts to include counterfeiting of trade goods and services which cause indiscriminate and widespread death, bodily harm and injury to sections of the consumer public,” the petition says.
The petition has also been copied to the UN Secretary General, the Vice Presidents and all elected members of the Bureau of the Assembly of State Parties for ICC .