SA should heed ICC rebuke
Rebuking South Africa for its failure to execute an arrest warrant for Sudanese genocidaire Omar al-Bashir, the International Criminal Court (ICC) could not have been much clearer about our government’s obligations.
Handing down the ruling of the panel, Judge Cuno Tarfusser said it was important to emphasise that “a request for cooperation from the court remains valid until it is explicitly withdrawn or suspended”.
“This is even more the case considering that the court had made it clear to South Africa that the request for arrest and surrender of Al-Bashir was at all times valid and had to be executed...”
That the court was kind enough not to refer the matter to the UN Security Council or the Council of Member States for sanction does not lessen the sting of the judgment. It was a stinging rebuke from the highest court in the world. It was embarrassing that a country that benefited from international solidarity to overcome an evil system had to be chastised for failing to comply with its commitment to protect the vulnerable from murderous dictators.
In his response to the decision not to further punish South Africa, renowned jurist Richard Goldstone said he hoped that “gentle treatment gives government a reason not to persist in wanting to withdraw from the court, which would be a tragedy”.
We hope government heeds Goldstone’s advice and abandons all thoughts of leaving the ICC, which could spur the death of the institution. It would be a blow to hundreds of millions of people in the world – and on our continent in particular – who live under the heavy boot of tyranny. We would be granting impunity to bloodthirsty tyrants and warlords.
South Africans should reject the tired argument that the ICC is illegitimate because it has mostly tried Africans and because no Western leaders have appeared before it. The reality is that Africa has been the theatre of most conflicts that have taken place since the inception of the ICC and is, unfortunately, home to the most brutal human rights abusers. This is akin to saying that the system is being unfair to people who have killed millions of Africans and abused tens of millions more.
It is true that it is wrong that some countries – including world powers such as the US – choose not to be members. The world community should be working to rectify this and strengthen the system, not destroy it. We should be on the side of the victims, not the perpetrators.