ICC ‘bias’ handy cover-up for Africa

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

Com­plex di­verse po­lit­i­cal agen­das are driv­ing African na­tions to quit the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court, with lead­ers seek­ing to cloak the move by reignit­ing ageold anger at the West, an­a­lysts say. Gam­bia’s an­nounce­ment that it would be the third coun­try to with­draw from the court is all the more frus­trat­ing as it comes at a time when the tri­bunal is be­gin­ning to probe some of the world’s most in­tractable con­flicts, in places such as the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries and Afghanistan, ex­perts say.

Set up in 2002, the ICC’s mis­sion is to try the world’s most heinous crimes which na­tional gov­ern­ments are ei­ther un­able or un­will­ing to pros­e­cute. And most of the ICC pros­e­cu­tions, such as in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo, have been re­quested by the coun­tries them­selves. But Gam­bian In­for­ma­tion Min­is­ter Sher­iff Bo­jang charged the ICC had been used “for the per­se­cu­tion of Africans and es­pe­cially their lead­ers”. “Not a sin­gle Western war crim­i­nal has been in­dicted,” he said late Tues­day, as his coun­try fol­lowed Bu­rundi and con­ti­nen­tal heavy­weight South Africa in an­nounc­ing it in­tends to leave the tri­bunal.

Shield­ing the Pow­er­ful

It is a “very wor­ry­ing de­vel­op­ment,” said an­a­lyst Mark Ker­sten, from the Univer­sity of Toronto. “The ul­ti­mate ef­fect of this will be to pro­tect high-level se­nior per­pe­tra­tors of mass atroc­i­ties.” In his on­line blog, Ker­sten pre­dicted while there would not be a mass ex­o­dus, as many as five to 10 na­tions could with­draw from the court based in The Hague, in­clud­ing Kenya, Namibia and Uganda. But he said iron­i­cally that showed the tri­bunal was more rel­e­vant than ever. “Why is the ICC in the African states as it is? If you look at all of them, I think what you’ll see is that the ICC has jus­ti­fied in­ves­ti­ga­tion in all those sit­u­a­tions,” he told AFP.

The three African na­tions in­volved so far have dif­fer­ent rea­sons for try­ing to avoid any in­ter­na­tional spot­light on their do­mes­tic is­sues. Bu­rundi, where ICC chief pros­e­cu­tor Fa­tou Ben­souda opened an ini­tial probe in April, has been mired in 18 months of po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence since Pres­i­dent Pierre Nku­run­z­iza an­nounced his suc­cess­ful bid for a third term. For­mer ICC chief pros­e­cu­tor Luis Moreno-Ocampo high­lighted re­peated fears from the United Na­tions and the African Union of “a pos­si­ble geno­cide” in Bu­rundi. “Who will de­fend the vic­tims?” he asked. “Es­cap­ing the ICC is a way to come (with) free hands to com­mit geno­cide,” MorenoO­campo told AFP, adding all “dic­ta­tors are against” the court.

It seems Bu­jum­bura’s de­ci­sion sparked a kind of “with­drawal race,” said Ker­sten, while in­sist­ing Pre­to­ria’s de­ci­sion “was not made in sol­i­dar­ity with Bu­rundi nor was it to pro­tect or pro­mote Nku­run­z­iza”. And Gam­bia, Ben­souda’s home coun­try where Pres­i­dent Yahya Jam­meh is seek­ing a fifth term hav­ing ruled with an iron-fist for decades, may have tried a pre­emp­tive strike amid fears of an op­po­si­tion crack­down.

Ex­perts warned of the “po­lar­ized de­bate” which has be­come symp­to­matic of ev­ery­thing that has gone wrong with the court. Of the 124 na­tions which have rat­i­fied the Rome Statute un­der­pin­ning the court, 34 are cur­rently African. But with the United States, Rus­sia and China all ab­sent from the ICC’s sig­na­to­ries, real dis­cus­sion is needed on boost­ing the tri­bunal’s le­git­i­macy. — AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.